Originally established as a villa school - Giggles English School - in 1980, Al Basma School was launched in September 2014 at its new, modern and purpose built premises to the north of Abu Dhabi.
Al Basma British School was rated Very Good on its third inspection in the 2018-19 academic year - a very positive achievement and an indication of a school that really is well along the improvement path. A full update of the review will take place shortly. The latest ADEK inspection report can be found here.
The story so far...
Forerunner Giggles English School had operated within six villas located in the centre of Abu Dhabi (Al Basma means the smile) and provided educational provision from KG to Grade 6. The move to Al Basma British School was triggered by ADEK's ruling that all villa schools operating in Abu Dhabi would need to relocate to purpose-built school buildings in order to provide more modern and student-focused facilities.
Find out more about the school's facilities, look and feel by reading about our Experience here!
The area in which the school is located, Al Bahia, is predominantly an Emirati-occupied location, but one that is easily reached from the residential areas around the airport, and an increasingly wide mix of nationalities are therefore seeking international schools in this area.
It is clear that Al Basma British School is dedicated to delivering high quality education. Its Chairman states:
"The leaders of this great nation place significant emphasis on ‘education’ and ‘health’. The Alfahim family firmly believes in providing effective education for Emiratis and communities living in Abu Dhabi. I support and endorse ADEK’s key objective and mission – “Education First”". Dr. Abdulla Abdul Jalil Alfahim
The school's vision notes
We aspire to be a global community of thinkers, creators, innovators and leaders who will have a positive impact on the world of tomorrow.
To achieve the vision, we will inspire our students to thrive as global citizens within a happy, positive and respectful environment.
Al Basma's goals are:
As a relatively new school, Al Basma is continuing to grow and add year groups until it reaches full provision. The school has (somewhat confusingly) adopted the international rather than UK grading system, and is currently open from pre-KG (FS1) to Grade 11 (Year 12). The final Grade 12 (Year 13) group will be added in September 2019.
Al Basma is currently home to just over 1,400 students; the main nationalities are: 42% Emirati, 12% Pakistani, 10% Egyptian and 9% Jordanian. Inevitably, as a relatively new school, it is very "bottom heavy" in terms of the ages of the children who attend, with approximately two-thirds of students in the FS and Primary sections of the school. However, the Secondary section, whilst smaller, is fully functioning and its first cohort of IGCSE students sat their exams in June 2018.
At the time of the school's second ADEK inspection in 2017, it had 111 teachers, the majority of whom were from the UK or had taught in UK curriculum schools overseas. All teachers have a minimum Bachelors degree and teaching qualification, or a Bachelor of Education. A further 21 teaching assistants support students. A number of the teaching staff are Masters' degree qualified.
A teacher:student ratio of 1:20 in FS section (although all classes have a teaching assistant) and 1:12 in the remaining grades, means that there should be significant individual support available to students and to adaptation of the curriculum to meet their needs.
Al Basma British School is accredited by both the British Schools of the Middle East and the British Schools Overseas voluntary standards organisation and was inspected by a BSO inspection team - looking closely at the standards of the school and whether they are in line with UK expectations - in 2016. This is a clear sign that Al Basma is keen to ensure that it is offering the highest standards.
What about the curriculum?
As you would expect of a school with "British" in the name, it follows an England and Wales based curriculum, with the Early Years Foundation Stage used at foundation level, Key Stages 1 and 2 for Primary, leading to an IGCSE based framework for Middle and Secondary schooling. Al Basma will eventually offer AS Levels and A Levels for Post-16 education.
What about academic achievement?
We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com are delighted to see that Al Basma British School has shared its first set of IGCSE results and hope that the school will continue with this transparent approach. Whilst results are not the be-all and end-all of education, parents inevitably seek evidence that schools are delivering them as an important criterion for their choice. Publishing results also ensures that the school and its students are celebrated for their achievements.
The first cohort of IGCSE students sat their exams in June 2018. A small group of around 30 students sat the first set of exams for which the overall set of results are a solid start to the school's ambitions for its students.
The school's highest achieving student, Khaled Waleed, achieved 7 A and A* grades, Faris Firmansiyah and Mohammed Barazi both achieved 5 A and A* grades while Mariam Abouelfetouh achieved 6 A and A* grades and Meera Yasser achieved 4 A and A* grades. Their hard work ranked these students with the highest performers in the GCSEs in the UK.
The headline UK figure of 5 or more A* - C grades including English and Maths was achieved by 55% of Al Basma students, matching the UK figure.
98% of all Al Basma students achieved A*- E in Maths, 100% achieved a grade E or above in English, whilst 75% achieved a C or above in English and Maths and 55% students achieved a B or above in English and Maths. In addition, 86% of all students achieved grade C in one or more subject and 75% achieved grade B in one or more subject. Finally, 41% of students achieved grade A or A* in one or more subject.
Given that 93% of students were non-native English speakers, studying English as an additional language, the school is inevitably particularly proud of the 19 students (66%) who were entered for English first Language and English literature.
What about the facilities?
The facilities at Al Basma British School are at the premium end of the market with a fine art studio, 25m swimming pool; library; specialist science labs; Interactive whiteboards; outdoor sports facilities; a multi-purpose sports hall; a digital & media studio; creative & performing arts rooms; a medical clinic with experienced nurses; technology-enabled learning resource centres; child-friendly & child-appropriate play areas and safe and comfortable transportation with GPS and cameras.
Check out the look, feel and facilities at Al Basma by reading our Experience here!
What the inspectors say
The school was inspected by ADEK for the first time in 2015. Its strengths according to the regulator include its "rapid progress" in establishing a new school with a positive ethos, as well as the progress made by students in core subjects from low starting points, the positive behaviour of the vast majority of students, the new building with its attractive environment is conducive to learning, the effective self‐evaluation that accurately reflects the priorities for improvement and the priority given to improving teaching and learning through effective professional development and support for middle leadership.
Clearly, Al Basma heeded the advice for improvements in the first inspection and as a result moved up to Good overall in the second inspection in 2017. This is a not inconsiderable achievement, particularly given that whilst four of the key performance standards were rated Good, two - Students' personal and social development, and their innovation skills, and the Protection, care, guidance and support of students - were rated Very Good.
Inspectors found that children enter KG with knowledge and skills that are low for their age. They achieve well in relation to their different starting points. In the main school, students’ attainment is above curriculum expectations and their progress is good overall.
Students’ personal development is very good throughout the phases. This is based on very strong rapport between staff and students, the positive behaviour and attitudes and the good knowledge of the UAE culture and Islamic values.
The quality of teaching, assessment and the curriculum have now improved and they are good. Support for students with special educational needs (SEN) and for those who are gifted and talented (G&T) is good.
School leaders and staff have worked together effectively to bring about rapid improvements in the school’s practice, particularly in the KG and in the implementation and adaptation for the English National Curriculum (ENC).
The strengths of the school were identified as:
Key areas for improvement were found to be:
This is an impressive performance for a relatively new school on its second inspection. Clearly, the concentration on improvement of the Arabic subjects will need to be a focus for the school, given the high concentration of Emirati and other arabic-speaking students. Inspectors found that the school's capacity for improvement is Good, and it can therefore be assumed that further progress towards an improved overall rating is to be expected.
These findings were supported by the school's first BSO inspection which took place at the same time. The BSO team stated that Al Basma British School, Abu Dhabi meets all the standards for British Schools Overseas accreditation.
Their report describes Al Basma as an improving school, noting that "the school has only been in operation for a short time and has made significant progress as it establishes itself. The school fully complies with host country regulatory requirements. Teaching is at least satisfactory and there are a significant number of good lessons. The students, parents and staff are highly committed to the school. Parents value the school’s commitment to provide an education similar in character to typical independent school expectations. The senior leadership team has an understanding of the strengths of the school and the key areas for further development. Nearly all students make progress at least in line with their ability, some do better. The national curriculum proves the framework for teaching and learning alongside host country requirements. The curriculum is enriched by a range of extra-curricular activities".
The BSO recommendations were focused on the need to "continue to develop assessment strategies to ensure they are manageable and have an impact on raising achievements; clarify a leadership structure that ensures all middle leaders have the skills and competencies to increase levels of accountability; [and] develop further the staff’s strengths to ensure that teaching and learning is at least good and consistent across the school".
Whilst Al Basma British School may not yet have achieved its goal "to provide a world-class yet affordable British education to families in the local and international communities of Abu Dhabi", it certainly seems genuine in its desire to do so, and based on the inspection reports, is on its way to delivering a high standard of education.
Parent opinion on Al Basma British School as gathered through the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com survey for the school is mixed. Whilst 55% of parents would recommend the school to others, a sizeable 36% emphatically would not. A surprising 40% felt that the school had not improved their child's confidence and over 50% of parents expressed concern about bullying. If you are a parent, teacher or High School student at Al Basma, please share your opinions with us through the completion of our survey.
Fees at the school are very competitive for a British curriculum-based school. Fees start at AED 20,000 AED for Pre-KG (FS1), rising to AED 38,100 for Grade 11 (Year 12). Once the school is fully open in 2019-20, fees for Grade 12 will be AED 39,200. The school offers quite generous sibling discounts, which increase in percentage depending on the number of children a family has at the school. Transport is not included in the above fees, which could add an additional 4,500 AED per year to the bill.
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The mentioned information is correct, As my daughters are studying, I fully agree with unusual grading structure they follow, but they clam that it is from ADEC, And when i contacted ADEC they conformed its true the intention behind is to remove the Year System and want to unify with only grade system.