Located in Al Manaseer, Al Bateen Academy offers a British and International Baccalaureate based curriculum. The school currently has just over 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 the entire building once 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. Now, in early 2020, whilst Al Bateen has not yet quite been able to re-establish its Outstanding rating, it has moved up to Very Good in the 2019-20 inspection round.
And 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 had been at Al Bateen since 2011, and was among the longest standing Principals within the Aldar Academies Group, has left the school, and his role has been assumed by Richard McMahon.
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 recent ADEK inspection, the Academy was home to approximately 810 students from a wide range of 60+ different nationalities. Emiratis account for the largest single demographic, representing almost 23% of students, with children from Egypt the second largest grouping, accounting 10% of the student population, and children from Jordan and India each representing a further 9%.
The school is well catered for in terms of staff with 100 teachers, 16 teaching assistants and a teacher to student ratio of approximately 1:11 - very much on the low side to ensure adequate attention to both individual and small groups of students. Class sizes average 17 students with a maximum of 24. Teacher turnover was at 16% which is low by UAE standards. The majority of teaching staff recruited are of British nationality, but the school also has staff members from Australia and Ireland. Teachers of Arabic are hired from Egypt and Syria.
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 is one of a small number of Abu Dhabi schools to have been accredited with the International Baccalaureate (IB) World School Status, and the IB Diploma Programme has been taught since September 2014... meaning the school's first exam results were issued in July 2016 (details of recent results can be found here).
With the introduction of the Primary section, albeit only FS2 (KG1 equivalent) and Year 1 in the current academic year, Al Bateen has broken with tradition by offering the IB Primary Years programme.
This is a first for Aldar Academies. The International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP) is designed for students aged 3 to 12.
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)."
All students study Arabic, English, Mathematics and Physical Education as the core requirements of the curriculum throughout the school. Depending on year group, the other core elements include Social Studies and Islamic studies. Students in the PYP programme follow the various units of inquiry alongside literacy and numeracy.
Students in the Secondary school follow an internationally adapted English National Curriculum from Year 7 to Year 11. Year 7 – 9 students study 12 subjects in total and have a choice of modern foreign language, either French or Spanish. Years 10 and 11 sit iGCSE examinations from the Cambridge and Edexcel Examination Boards at the end of two years of study. IGCSE students select five option choices which vary according to the cohort preferences. They also study IGCSE English language, Literature or English as a Second Language and Mathematics, with some completing Statistics or Further Mathematics. A total of 22 subjects is currently available. Planned learning takes place both within and outside the classroom.
Students in years 12 and 13 (Sixth Form) take the highly academic IB Diploma Programme, which is widely regarded as the Gold Standard in terms of pre-University qualification. The school has also advised us that it is currently considering expanding the curriculum for Sixth Form students to offer the complementary IB Courses or Career-related Programme (IBCP) and BTEC (Business and Technical Education Council courses) which generally offer a more vocational route to tertiary education or employment.
The IB 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. The IB Diploma students select six subjects from a list of 24 subjects available. In addition to the requirement to include English, Maths, a Science subject, a Humanities subject, and a language, students can also choose subjects such as Global Politics, Design Technology, Computer Science and Psychology.
We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com wonder whether the decision to offer both the PYP and IBDP/CP 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 announced the opening of a second IB curriculum school in September 2020.
One of the USPs of the Aldar Academies is their Academy of Excellence programme which is aimed at children with Gifts and Talents; a personalised 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. 92% 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. Two students achieved 40 points or more, placing them in the top 5% of IBDP students worldwide, whilst two-thirds of all students achieved over 30 points.
In 2019, for iGCSE, 93% of 71 students attained passes in 5 or more subjects at 9-4 points (A*-C). 88% attainment in 5 or more iGCSE subjects at 9 – 5, including English and Mathematics (A*-C), and 59% of all iGCSE grades achieved were 9 to 7. This is a significant improvement over the achievement for 2018.
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.
Again, iGCSE results were impressive, with 84% of the cohort of 90 students achieving 5 or more passes at Grades 9-4 (A*-C), with 81% achieving 5 passes including English and Maths at Grades 9-4. 41% of passes were at Grades 9-7 (A*-A).
Full details of academic results for the school can be found here.
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 within the UAE public school system and to move on to university a year earlier.
As noted in our comments earlier in this review, Al Bateen has confirmed that it is considering offering the IB Courses or Career-related programmes, together with the BTEC qualification 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 noted 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 deemed in the previous inspection.
It will therefore have been a very welcome judgement in the first term of the 2019-20 academic year, that Al Bateen Academy has been awarded a Very Good rating by the ADEK inspection team.
The inspectors noted that since the Primary section of the school had only been open for a few weeks, no formal inspection of these classes took place. This has meant that the inspection has genuinely compared like with like in terms of the Secondary section and improvements are therefore specifically as a result of the focus of the management since the previous inspection.
Despite the inevitable concerns that the downgrade in rating most certainly evoked in 2018 - and, not by one rating to Very Good, but by two, we at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, stated our belief that Al Bateen Academy had the capacity to re-establish itself among the small number of Abu Dhabi schools to have achieved the top rating. Whilst it has not yet achieved the two steps up that were required to achieve the Outstanding rating, there has clearly been significant progress in the past two years.
Among the six key performance indicators, Students' Achievement, Teaching and Assessment and Leadership and Management have improved from Good to Very Good, and the Curriculum has retained its Very Good rating. The protection, care, guidance and support of students was also deemed to have improved to Outstanding, reflecting the same rating for Students’ personal and social development, and their innovation skills.
Overall, the inspection team found that the strengths of Al Bateen Academy are:
The inspectors noted specific improvements which had been implemented as part of the response to the previous inspection, commenting that:
In terms of improvements recommended for the coming two years, Al Bateen Academy should:
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 inspection report notes that "The school seeks and acts on parents’ views and ensures that they are involved in their children’s learning and development."
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 of your opinions and experiences at 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 54,490 in FS2, AED 57,220 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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