Located in Al Manaseer, Al Bateen Academy offers a British and international based curriculum. The school currently has approximately 8000 students, girls and boys, from Year 7 to 13. In something of shock - at least to the team at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com - the previously ADEK Outstanding-rated school has been downgraded by two rankings in the 2017-18 academic year to Good.
There have clearly been some quite significant changes at Al Bateen Academy, part of the Aldar Academies group of schools, in the past 24 months. The first significant development was that, after several years of sharing their premises with Al Mushrif Primary School, Al Bateen Academy now has full access to its building and the opportunity to expand. The opening of Al Mamoura School, to which the Al Mushrif School essentially relocated, means that Al Bateen Academy has reverted to a Secondary only status. The second significant change will clearly have been the result of the 2017-18 ADEK inspection, where the school lost its coveted Outstanding rating (held since the last inspection in 2015-16), with a reduction to Good. Of this, more later...
The Academy is currently home to approximately 800 students from 62 different nationalities. Emiratis account for the largest single demographic, accounting for almost 32% of students, (based on figures disclosed to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com), with children from the UK and Egypt the second largest grouping, each accounting 8% of the student population, and children from Jordan representing a further 6%.
The school is well catered for in terms of staff with 95 teachers, 12 teaching assistants and a teacher to student ratio of approximately 1:8. Classroom sizes range from 18 to 23 students. Teacher turnover is at 15% which is low by UAE standards. The majority of teaching staff recruited are of British nationality, but the school has staff members from Australia, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA. Teachers of Arabic are hired from around the Middle East, depending on their qualifications and experience.
All teachers hold a teaching degree, teaching qualification and have a minimum of two years’ teaching experience according to the school in information released to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com.
Al Bateen Academy has International Baccalaureate (IB) World Status, and the IB Diploma Programme has been taught from September 2014... meaning the school's first exam results were issued in July 2016 (details can be found later).
Having achieved its Outstanding rating in 2016, Al Bateen Academy had moved up the ratings in every inspection it had had - up from A3 (Good) in 2012, and A2 (Very Good) in 2014. However, in the 2017-18 inspection report, the Inspection team note that the composition of the school has changed [with no Primary school to influence the overall rating of the school - inspections were previously held jointly] and this appears to have brought sharply into focus areas of performance which are no longer as effective as found in the last inspection.
The school continues to be rated as Outstanding in relation to Students' Personal and Social Development and their Innovation skills, and measures related to the Curriculum, together with the Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students remained Very Good. However, the three key areas of Students' Achievement, Teaching and Assessment, and Leadership and Management were rated only Good - which clearly had a significant impact on the overall rating.
Whilst there is evidently much that is positive at the school, behind these Good ratings lie a number of clear concerns on the part of the Inspection team. Inspectors identified the Academy's strengths as: the positive impact of students’ personal and social development on their learning skills; the effectiveness of teaching and students’ successful achievement in English, Science, Non-core subjects and in the IB Diploma; student and staff contribution to the school and local community, the UAE National Agenda and international cooperation; the school’s provision of health, safety, care and support, and school leaders’ management of the day-to-day life of the school.
It is, however, the areas for improvement that shed light on what has gone wrong since the 2016 inspection. Whilst school leaders have improved teaching and students’ achievement in Arabic medium subjects, these subjects (including Arabic language for native and non-native speakers, Islamic and Social Studies) still have yet to match the high levels of achievement found in other areas. It was noted that school self-evaluation in these subjects has not always been entirely rigorous in identifying areas for improvement.
The inspectors recommended that Al Bateen Academy should further improve the effectiveness of leadership, teaching and students’ achievement in Arabic medium subjects by: developing vocabulary and pronunciation through extended written and spoken exercises; using national benchmarks more accurately to identify students who have yet to exceed minimum expectations of attainment; and, by developing an intensive Arabic language programme at the start of each year to promote basic literacy skills.
Students’ were also found to have shown inconsistent attainment in Mathematics and AS levels since the last inspection. This is, in part, because leaders have not always adapted the curriculum to the best advantage of all groups of students. Inspectors' recommendations included improving the consistency of teaching and students’ achievement by: implementing Mathematics courses at IGCSE and IB diploma that allow all groups of students to develop a strong foundation in the core skills of Mathematics; and, working closely with parents and students from a very early stage to ensure students fully prepare for the challenge of AS courses.
The Inspectors noted that school leaders recognise what needs to be done to develop and sustain improvement. Recommendations from the Inspection team included enhancing leadership and management by: providing further training for middle leaders in the accurate use of national and international benchmarks; improving the accuracy and rigour of all school leaders’ self-evaluation; and, ensuring representation of the Arabic language within the school’s leadership team.
Key among these points is the Inspectors' acknowledgement that the School leaders recognise the reasons for a decline in the overall effectiveness of the school and the improvements needed. Overall, the Inspectors feel that school leaders’ capacity to improve the school is good. This should be reassuring to both students and their parents - and indeed to all the members of the school community, including its staff.
Despite the inevitable concerns that the downgrade in rating will evoke - and, not by one rating to Very Good, but by two - we at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com - still believe that Al Bateen Academy has the capacity to re-establish itself among the small number of Abu Dhabi schools to have achieved the top rating. Their challenge will be to climb back up this hill in a relatively short two-year period when the next inspection is due. Whilst it does not seem to take so long to slip down the hill, the climb back up is often slower and more painful.
What about the Academics?
Al Bateen Academy has been one of the few schools in Abu Dhabi to be open to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com about the academic achievements of its students - something we prize greatly, as we believe that parents should have access to this information as a key (but not sole) element of their decision-making process, in terms of the choice of school for their child(ren).
The 2018 IB results were published shortly after the school closed for the summer, and results are therefore brief at this point. However, we fully expect to update them in due course. We do know that 90% of the 49 students who sat for the IB Diploma exams in May, achieved the qualification - some 44 students - compared with the global average of 79%. The average point score was 32.2 of 45, again above the global average of 29.78 considerably, and also ahead of the UAE average score of 31.41. We will aim to publish further details of high-achievers and their university destinations as this becomes available.
However, even with the apparently disappointing Maths and AS results for 2017 according to the ADEK inspectors, Al Bateen Academy still has a lot to be proud of in terms of the exam results achieved in other subjects and at other levels - notably in the IBDP and IGCSE's. Full details can be found below:
2015 was the second cohort of students to complete their I/GCSE’s at Al Bateen. Results demonstrate progress in overall attainment at 5 A*- C including English and Maths with a 10% increase from the previous year results, 2014. For 2015, the pass rate for 5 A*C with English and Maths was 76%.
The school's expected target for 5 A*C EM was 52% based on predictive CAT data. The 2015 I/GCSE results demonstrated a 24% improvement on top of that.
Overall 85% of Al Bateen students gained A*/A grades in one or more academic subjects with 84% of the cohort achieving 5 or more A*-C grades. The percentage of students achieving one or more A* was 74%, one or more A*/A was 85%, one or more A*-B was 95%.
Compared against the 2014 UK national average (DFE National Statistics) for all schools Al Bateen students exceeded the national UK average by 23.4%. In Mathematics the UK A* - C pass rate was 69.1% which Al Bateen students exceeded by 11.5%.
Students also made very good progress in practical subjects, such as art, design and technology, drama and music. The school told us it "seeks to provide high quality education in all subject areas, encouraging our students to become well-rounded individuals who are well prepared for their future endeavours."
Core subjects at IGCSE, however, are Arabic, English and World Literature, Mathematics and Statistics, Science – Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Physical Education, PSHE and Citizenship/Islamic Studies. Optional Subjects include Art & Design, Music, Drama, Physical Education, History, Geography, Business Studies, French, Spanish, ICT, Design & Technology – Graphics, Resistant Materials, and Food Technology.
For senior years, the school has opted for the IB programme. The IB Diploma programme started in September 2014 with the first cohort of Year 12’s undertaking a wide range of subjects at both standard and higher level. In its first IB DP results the school had cause to celebrate, with a 100 percent pass rate, and the 35 strong IB DP cohort achieving an average point score of 32.4. The most established schools in the UAE achieve an average points score of around 34 - so this is a very, very good result for the Aldar Academy school.
As well as more general guidance the school sets up events such as open days, trips to different campuses, guest speakers from universities around the world and Skype meetings with university representatives. The process is designed to give students the clarity they need before making the life-changing decisions of which university, which course and in what country...
Students are also guided in how to approach their personal statements to reflect the true nature of their abilities. A good personal statement is now key to university entrance.
The school is part of the Aldar Academies group so despite being relatively new, the school still has pedigree. Aldar Academies runs some highly respected schools in the capital including Pearl Primary, Al Muna Primary, and Al Yasmina school.
The school teaches in English. Arabic, French and Spanish are offered as additional academic subjects while, taking a leaf out of Repton's books, Mandarin Chinese is offered as an extra-curricular activity.
Al Bateen Academy states it has limited special needs support. Students with Special Education Needs (SEN) are reviewed and have to undergo an assessment as part of the application process. Currently about 10% of students have SEN requirements. Despite the school saying its resources are limited, provision is described as "very good".
As a (relatively) new school, built by Aldar, the facilities are as you would expect - top notch. They include a research laboratory, 850-seat auditorium, art rooms, music and drama rooms, graphic design area, music recording studio, recital hall, multi-purpose hall, dance studio, 25m indoor swimming pool, football pitch and basketball courts.
Support for learning comes from a well-equipped library, seminar rooms for small group teaching and video conference suites to facilitate links with other schools or education institutes around the world. During break times, students can use the cafeteria facilities, indoor social spaces, outdoor areas or enjoy the peaceful atmosphere in the ‘Oasis’, a key feature in the centre of the building.
The school also offers a range of extra-curricular activities. In addition to the Mandarin Chinese, there is Football, Netball, Rugby, Sailing, Swimming, Arabic calligraphy, Art, Choir, Drama, Jewellery making, Music, Photography, and Theatre. The school offers activities for children on a first come first serve basis and some are free of charge while others are paid for. Note, the school has fully embraced the IB's CAS - Creativity, Action, Service - and all students get involved in CAS actvities from an early age.
The school year runs from September to July and is divided into 3 terms. The main school holidays are for the winter break (mid-December to early January), the Spring break (late March to mid-April) and the Summer break (late June to early September).
Annual fees range from AED 56,100 for Years 7 ‐ 9 to AED 65,900 for Year 13, exclusive of books and uniform. This is premium - but perhaps no surprise. British-curriculum based schools are second only to IB schools in terms of fees, and Al Bateen Academy is both. That said, this is a relatively new school, and while the group as a whole has a positive track record, new schools will inevitably have teething pains. Introducing the IBDP is also a significant process and challenge for any school.
Note: Priority for places in the school is given in the following order: Siblings of current Al Bateen Academy students, and Year 6 students from Al Muna, Al Mamoura (which is Girls only from Year 7) and The Pearl (other Aldar Academies schools) entering Year 7; Children of employees of Aldar or Mubadala.
An online application form can be completed using the following link: http://aldaracademies.com/index.php/en/application-forms
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