Located in Al Manaseer, Al Bateen Academy offers a British and International Baccalaureate based curriculum. The school currently has approximately 800 students, girls and boys, from Year 7 to 13, and in September 2019, re-opened its Primary section from FS2 to Year 1 initially, with plans to extend it to Year 6 year on year.
The story so far...
There have clearly been some quite significant changes at Al Bateen Academy, part of the Aldar Academies group of schools, in the past three years.
The first major change, after several years of sharing their premises with Al Mushrif Primary School, was the latter's relocation to form the opening cohort of primary students at Al Mamoura Academy, when it opened in September 2016. At the time, it seemed that Al Bateen Academy would enjoy, and be able to expand student numbers through access to entire building now that the significant space used by the Primary school had been returned.
The second, and probably more significant, development was 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 by two ratings to Good. Of this, more later...
And now, three years later, Al Bateen is expanding - but not through its Secondary section. Instead, a new Primary section has opened with FS2 and Year 1 initially, growing to Year 6 year on year. Principal David Hutson, who has been at Al Bateen since 2011, and must be one of the longest standing Principals within the Aldar Academies Group, will preside over the Primary expansion within his school.
Al Bateen Academy says that its aims are:
'To offer a transformational education focused on the skills and attributes that will empower all learners to succeed and shape our future as global citizens; To develop future leaders who understand that their positive actions can contribute to the improvement of local, national and international communities'; and 'To provide an inclusive learning environment where all learners feel supported, motivated and encouraged to pursue their personal best.'
At the time of the last ADEK inspection, the Academy was home to approximately 800 students from 62 different nationalities. Emiratis account for the largest single demographic, representing 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 - very much on the low side to ensure adequate attention to both individual and small groups of students. Classroom sizes range from 18 to 23 students. Teacher turnover was 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.
What about the curriculum?
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 here). However, students in the Secondary school follow the English National Curriculum - from Year 7 to Year 11, sitting iGCSE examinations from the Cambridge and Edexcel Examination Boards at the end of two years of study in Years 10 and 11. Core subjects at IGCSE 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.
Planned learning takes place both within and outside the classroom. Students in years 12 and 13 take the highly academic IB Diploma Programme, which is widely regarded as the best pre-University qualification.
However, in a first for the Aldar Academies, the new Primary school is following the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP). The PYP is designed for students aged 3 to 12.
The curriculum focuses on the development of the whole child as an inquirer, both in the classroom and in the world outside. It is a framework guided by six trans-disciplinary themes of global significance, explored using knowledge and skills derived from six subject areas, as well as trans-disciplinary skills, with a powerful emphasis on inquiry.
Al Bateen told us that "The plan is that the school will open a full PYP Primary school within a few years. The children follow the PYP curriculum that complements the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB DP) already available to Al Bateen Academy’s Senior School students (Years 12 and 13)."
We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com wonder if this decision could lead to the possibility of Al Bateen eventually changing its curriculum entirely to the IB programme, with the introduction of the Middle Years Programme for years 7 to 11 in future years. This would make it one of a very small number of Abu Dhabi schools to offer the full IB continuum which has been such a success for Taaleem's Raha International School which has recently announced the opening of a second school in 2020.
One of the UPSs of the Aldar Academies is their Academy of Excellence programme which is aimed at children with Gifts and Talents; a personalized programme that aims to enrich and challenge students beyond that of the formal curriculum. The Academy of Excellence provides the following benefits to any participating student:
The extra-curricular CAS (Creativity/Action/Service) programme (a requirement for IB DP students) is described as "broad and engaging", and includes opportunities such as Model United Nations, World Scholars Cup, Sport, Music, and the Arts.
What about the facilities?
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.
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).
Al Bateen Academy informed us that for the May 2019 exams for the IB Diploma programme, 44 students graduated from the IB Diploma Programme (21 boys; 23 girls; 8 UAE students). The average point score was 32.4 points, compared with world average of 29.63 and their own average of 32.2 a year ago. 93% of students' in the 2019 cohort who entered for the Diploma passed the IBDP programme compared with a world average of 79% and their own figure of 90% in 2018. The school did not provide details of the highest point score, or a break down of the percentage of results over 40 points, 35 points and 30 points, which is the common format used for reporting the IB Diploma results globally.
In 2019, for iGCSE, 94% of students attained passes in 5 or more subjects at 9-4 points (A*-C). 90% attainment in 5 or more iGCSE subjects at 9 – 5, including English and Mathematics (A*-C), and 50% of all iGCSE grades achieved were 9 or 8. We would like to know how many students sat the exams and how many exams were entered. We would also like a more detailed breakdown of the percentage of results across grade boundaries (9-8; 9-7; 9-6 and 9.4), as is the norm in reporting both GCSE and iGCSE results.
The 2018 IB results were published shortly after the school closed for the summer. We do know that 90% of the 49 students who sat for the IB Diploma exams in May 2018 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.
2017 IB results and iGCSE results were sent to us by the school as follows:
As a non-selective school, Al Bateen certainly appears to be achieving very good results for its students. The demands of the IB Diploma programme, in particular, should not be underestimated. In previous years, the school also offered the option of AS Level for students in Year 12, since this was sufficient for local students to achieve equivalency with the UAE public school system and to move on to university a year earlier.
This now appears to have ended, and we wonder whether the school will possibly consider the IB Courses or Career-related programmes as alternative pathways for students who are perhaps not so academically focused, or who plan to move directly into careers on completing their studies.
Al Bateen Academy also ensures that students receive guidance for university or college entry. 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.
Having achieved its Outstanding rating in 2016, Al Bateen Academy had moved up the ratings in every inspection that had taken place - 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 had 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 were found to be no longer as effective as regarded in the previous inspection.
The school continued 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:
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. 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. The Inspectors noted that school leaders recognise what needs to be done to develop and sustain improvement.
The inspectors recommended that Al Bateen Academy should:
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 has surely evoked - 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.
If you would like to read the full ADEK inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so - you may find it here.
Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any formal arrangement through the regulator in Abu Dhabi to collect the opinions of parents, staff or students about the school.
The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Parent Opinion Survey for Al Bateen Academy has generally very good reviews from a relatively small number of parents who have participated.
They believe for the most part that their children enjoy going to school quite a bit or even tremendously, and are very satisfied with the quality of education provided at Al Bateen Academy. Parents are also very happy with the feedback and disciplinary policy of the school. Those parents who responded had for the most part not considered moving their child to another school, and in fact would definitely recommend the Academy to other parents (86% of respondents). If there is a bugbear, it is the always tricky issue of school fees. Whilst an equal measure of respondents (14% each) have opposite views - (those being satisfied with the level of fees and those being dissatisfied), the majority (72%) take the middle ground of being partially satisfied.
We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com would very much like prospective parents, staff and students to learn your opinions and experiences of Al Bateen Academy. If you are a parent, teacher or student at the school, please share your thoughts by completing our survey here.
What about fees?
Annual fees range from AED 52,960 in FS2, AED 55,610 in Year 1, AED 58,650 for Years 7 ‐ 8, rising to AED 68,830 for Years 12 and 13, exclusive of books and uniform. Fees for Years 2 to 6 have not been released.
These fees are premium, but realistically, no surprise. British-curriculum based schools are second only to IB schools in terms of fees due to the costs of staffing, and Al Bateen Academy is both. Introducing the IBDP, and now the PYP, 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.
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