The newest Aldar Academies Primary and Secondary school located at al Mamoura opened in 2016 and has grown rapidly. With a little over 1,300 students, the school has established itself well within the local community, offering a unique blend of mixed-gender Primary and Girls-only Secondary school. It has also recently introduced a US curriculum pathway for Senior students in addition to the UK curriculum.
Al Mamoura Academy Abu Dhabi's impressive launch student numbers are in large part due to the transfer of the former Al Mushrif Primary from its shared location Al Bateen school. Almost 500 students moved from the old school to the new, and the students numbers have now more than doubled to 1,300.
The school states that its Vision is to create “An innovative learning community, where we nurture our learners through Collaboration, Leadership and Creativity.”
Further, the school states that "In our commitment to this vision we strive to educate the whole child and to give every student the quality education and learning experiences that they deserve, whilst playing a full and active role in our local, national and international communities."
Al Mamoura Academy offers an interesting academic provision through a recently introduced dual stream A’ Level/American High School Diploma option at Sixth Form not offered by any other of the Aldar Academies. Al Mamoura seeks to set the benchmark for single-sex, girls only secondary provision in the Capital whilst primary phases is fully co-educational.
This is the first Aldar school that offers a co-educational experience to children in primary and a Girls-only secondary school. Boys joining the school for the Primary years have an automatic route of transfer to Al Bateen Academy (which is mixed-gender throughout), and ironically, was the original base of Al Mushrif Primary School which relocated to become Al Mamoura.
70% of students at Al Mamoura are Emirati, followed by Jordanian, and British children ranging each between 5 and 3% of the school population. A small number of students of determination are supported by the school. The latest ADEK report noted that 'Students with special educational needs receive comprehensive support and guidance, but higher achieving students are not consistently challenged in lessons'.
One of the early challenges for Al Mamoura was a relatively high turnover at the Principal level, with three Principals in the first two years of the school's development. This issue now appears to have been fully addressed in the person of Sarah Weaver who now leads the team at the school. Ms. Weaver brings over 17 years of leadership experience within the UK and international contexts; with eight of those being in the UAE.
Ms. Weaver is now in her third year as Principal at Al Mamoura Academy and has already led improvements of the school with the achievement of “Outstanding” judgements in the school's British Schools Overseas inspection and the achievement of the “Developed” status, the highest rating possible, for its Distance Learning Evaluation in which all UAE schools participated with the move to Distance Learning in 2020 as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic.
With the growth in student numbers has come an increase in staffing numbers with 120 teachers and 66 teaching assistants. This gives a teacher to student ratio of 1:10 - very much on the low side, which should ensure individualised teaching for students. Staff turnover, at 14%, is well below the average 20-22% found in international curriculum schools in the UAE.
The school is open from Foundation to year 13 and follows the National Curriculum for England and Wales alone until Year 10 (Grade 9), when the additional option of a US High School Diploma has been introduced from September 2021.
The school explains" at Al Mamoura, we endeavour to provide the highest of standards in all we do and to give every student the environment to express creative talents and academic abilities in innovative and enterprising ways; with a focus on cross curricular learning and a highly specialised middle school curriculum using our highly trained specialist teachers. However, we also understand that young people need much more than a suite of excellent qualifications and so along with academic success we also promote the development of lifelong skills in order to succeed."
The introduction of the US curriculum pathway is designed to enhance the breadth of opportunity for students. Although the US pathway is a 4-year course, and the UK pathway is two, 2-year courses (I/GCSE in Years 10 and 11, followed by A Level in Years 12 and 13) the school says that it is possible in Year 12/Grade 11 for students to continue with the US curriculum or to transfer to the UK based International A Level programme.
Students study the core IGCSEs in English, Maths and Science. This course of study is complemented with a number of optional IGCSEs. Students are given a choice of three pathways, where they would achieve between 7 and 11 IGCSEs.
The options available at IGCSEs for: Arabic First Language, Art, Business,Computer Science, Design & Technology, Drama, Economics, Food and Nutrition, French, Geography, History, ICT, Music, Physical Education, Psychology, and Spanish.
In the Post 16 Sixth Form, most students opt for three A Levels over the two years as well as the chance to study for the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ). All A Level subjects are taught by specialist teachers who have a passion for their subject and who are there to support students as they make their choices for university and beyond.
The options available at A Level for students are: Art and Design, Biology, Business, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, English Language & Literature, Further Mathematics, History, Geography, ICT, Modern Foreign Languages – French – Spanish, Mathematics, Photography, Physics, Politics, Product Design, Psychology and the EPQ Qualification.
It will be interesting to see how many students continue with their studies to A Level, given that local students will be able to obtain equivalency for university entry in the UAE at the end of Year 12.
If students follow the US curriculum option, they will follow the Massachusetts State Curriculum which, due to the close ties to prestigious universities such as Harvard and MIT, stands above other curricula for its rigorous, comprehensive and forward-thinking design. It is also considered to be more demanding – and therefore rewarding – than the American Common Core Curriculum. This is a four-year programme which allows students to achieve their High School Diploma at the end of Year 13 (Grade 12). The American High School Diploma is the standard qualification to gain entry into leading US universities and colleges.
Unlike the UK curriculum, where students are generally bound to their option choices, the US curriculum allows for flexibility at the end of each year, whereby students have the chance to change their option subjects or to continue to develop their subject understanding further.
In order to achieve their High School Diploma, students study the English, Maths and Science as well as three option subjects. Alongside these subjects they will have an enrichment course which will focus on study skills and careers. The options available at US Curriculum are: Art, Business, Computer Science, Design & Technology, Drama, Economics, Food and Nutrition, French, Geography, History, ICT, Music, Physical Education, Psychology and Spanish.
What about academic achievement?
Al Mamoura provided details of its IGCSE results to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com for the 2021 exam session. As a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, examinations were cancelled and all entries were awarded Centre Assessed Grades - that is marked by teachers based on students' performance and internal assessments.
The school did not provide any details of student numbers or exam entries, but advised that 12.4% of entries achieved the highest Grade 9 (GCSE), with 31% of entries being awarded A* (Grade 9-8), 53.5 awarded A*-A (Grade 9-7), 73.6 of entries achieving A*-B (Grade 9-6) and 98.4% of entries achieving Grade 9/A*-C (Grade 9-4) passes.
The school did not provide details of results for 2020, when the Covid pandemic resulted in all examinations being awarded on the basis of Centre Assessed Grades.
Comparative figures for 2021 and 2019 indicated:
IGCSE A* TO A
2021: 12.4% Grade 9, 31% A* (Grade 9-8), 53.5% A*-A (Grade 9-7)
2019: 33% of students achieved 9-7 grades (A*/A)
IGCSE A* TO C
2021: 98.4% Pass rate A*-C (Grade 9-4); 73.6% A*-B (Grade 9-6).
2019: 97% Pass (75% of students achieved five A*-B (9-5 grades); Overall 52% of students achieved A*/B (9-6 grades).
In terms of 2019, additional information provides indicated that among those completing their IGCSE studies, 33% of students achieved A*/A (9-7 grades). Overall, the academy’s entire cohort of students performed strongly in the subjects of English, with the vast majority achieving a 9-5 grade, in History where 100% of students achieved a 9-7 grade, and in Science with 100% of students achieving 9-6.
In 2019, several Year 10 students at Al Mamoura Academy were also entered for English early, with 100% students achieving a grade of 4 or higher. The top performing subjects were English, Science, History and Arabic.
Al Mamoura School's design is based on one that was developed for an ADEK school in Al Ain, but has been adapted to create a separate section with a very large open indoor space for Foundation Stage children to enable them to take place in a wide range of free play activities supervised by teachers.
The design of the building means that Primary aged children (both boys and girls) are located on the ground floor, whilst the Secondary girls-only section, is located on the upper floor. A wide range of specialist facilities are available for the Secondary students, including the usual range of Science and IT labs.
Find out more about the facilities of the school from our Experience visit.
Facilities are first class including digital classrooms; Science laboratories and preparation rooms tailored to each science; individual libraries by Phase; Design technology rooms specialising in textiles, food and graphics; multiple Art studios including 3D Labs a pottery studio; Music suites including a dedicated recording studio; Recital Hall; Senior School Centre; cafeterias; Drama and Dance studios; two landmark auditoriums, one with theatre capabilities and an 850 seat capacity; video conferencing suites; EYFS soft play areas; and covered play areas for every phase of the school.
Sports facilities include a (beautifully designed) 25m swimming pool; extensive playing fields; full-sized football pitch; basketball courts and netball courts, gymnasium and athletics tracks. After-school activities are extensive including provision for art; graphic design; photography; pottery; jewellery making; Mandarin Chinese; Spanish; Arabic calligraphy; a book club; Quran club; music clubs and lessons; choir; drama and theatre societies; dance school; cookery school; football; cricket; basketball; netball; swimming; rugby; badminton; sailing and water sports; expeditions groups; and Duke of Edinburgh Award clubs.
The first ADEK inspection for Al Mamoura took place in April 2017 when students ranged from FS1 to Year 9. The school was rated Good overall, with Very Good ratings in students’ personal and social development, and their innovation skills, the protection, care, guidance and support of students and the leadership and management of the school.
The second inspection took place in the 2018-19 academic year when the school again received the Good rating. This is something of a surprise to us at WhichSchooAdvisor.com - in general, Aldar Academies are rated at least Very Good and we would have expected to see similar progression at Al Mamoura.
It is immediately evident from the inspection report that a significant issue at the academy has been that of change of leadership. The introduction to the report notes that "The principal joined the school at the start of the academic year in 2018. Leadership has not been stable, with 3 principals over the last 2 years". It is a commonly held view that leadership of a school is absolutely crucial to its performance, and clearly, the instability at Al Mamoura had had an impact.
On a positive note, however, the inspection report also notes that "Leaders provide very clear strategic direction and there is a high priority for raising standards of students’ achievement from the low attainment of students in most subjects on entry to the school. Students’ achievement is now good in most subjects, and very good overall in the KG in English. Teachers provide a range of motivating and engaging activities with appropriate support and challenge to ensure the different learning needs of most groups are being met.
Students’ achievement in almost all subjects is now good except in science where it is acceptable. Students’ achievement has improved in Arabic First Language, and Arabic Second Language, with improved attainment in Islamic education and social studies.
Students’ personal and social development, and their innovation skills was again rated Very Good. Inspectors noted that "Students’ highly positive relationships, respectful attitudes and very good behaviour support their learning very well. Students’ appreciation of the values and heritage of UAE, and other world cultures are strong, and they apply these to their own lives. However, students’ social responsibility and contribution to the community are less well developed.
The third key performance standard of Teaching and Assessment was again rated Good. Teachers were found to have good subject knowledge. They plan and use resources well to raise students’ achievement, and to stimulate their interest in learning. Teachers also provide motivating and differentiated activities that foster students’ enjoyment of learning. However, planned activities do not consistently challenge students to think and solve problems independently.
In terms of the Curriculum, this was also rated Good. The inspectors found that well-planned curricular links enable students to transfer their skills across subjects. Good systems are in place to ensure a smooth transition between phases. However, insufficient teaching time is available in science to allow all students to achieve their potential.
Invariably, Teaching and Assessment and the Curriculum are the two key performance standards that directly impact Student Achievement - in this case, all three are rated Good. Improvement in Teaching and Assessment will therefore have a direct impact on Student Achievement and will remain the core focus for the school.
The ratings for the remaining two performance standards - the Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students, and Leadership and Management - were both again rated Very Good.
Importantly, the new leadership of the school has established a clear strategic direction with a focus on raising achievement and ensuring that parents, students and staff are clear about their responsibilities. The inspection team noted that "The school’s strategic focus on developing students’ basic skills and knowledge is having a positive impact on students’ achievement in most subjects where it is now good."
Overall, the ADEK inspection report found that the strengths of Al Mamoura Academy were:
In terms of priorities of improvement, Al Mamoura should:
If you would like to read the full ADEK inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to get a more complete understanding of the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.
In February 2020, Al Mamoura Academy participated in its first inspection by a team from British Schools Overseas. This is an organisation that bases its inspection process and reports on those of the UK Department of Education's OFSTED inspections.
The report found that Al Mamoura meets the standards of British Schools Overseas and was rated Good or better in a number of categories. You can read the full report here.
We have received very limited responses to the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Parent Survey and those that have responded are clearly not among the most satisfied of parents at the school. They were split equally in terms of whether they would recommend the school to other parents (33%), were unsure whether to recommend (33%) or would not (33%). All had considered moving their child(ren) to other schools.
Based on our knowledge of Aldar Academies, and their overall reputation, we suspect that this is a small number of disgruntled parents who have used our Survey as a way to make their views public.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at Al Mamoura Academy, please do share your experience and opinions with other potential members of your community by completing our survey here.
It seems evident that after a somewhat unsettled start from a leadership standpoint, and whilst the school was developing at a rapid pace, Al Mamoura Academy has taken some time to find its feet. Our initial expectations were that the Academy would quickly become a high-performing school, in line with the other Aldar Academies. It seems now from the most recent ADEK inspection report and the British Schools Overseas Inspection feedback that Al Mamoura is finally on track.
The school is certainly striking out on its own path. The initial decision to offer a Girls-only option was something of a test for Aldar Academies - and not one that they had attempted in any of their existing schools. Now the addition of a US curriculum and leaving qualification option is another first step within the Group. Aldar has always focused on ensuring that its schools met the needs of both the local Emirati population and the international families seeking a high quality curriculum and environment. The development of Al Mamoura appears to be designed to continue to attract both.
Fees (adjudged High to Very High by ADEK) for the Academy range from AED 48,800 for Nursery (FS1) to AED 50,210 for FS2 to Year 6, AED 61,530 for Years 7 – 8, AED 65,850 for Year 9, AED 69,350 for Years 10 – 11, and AED 72,430 for Years 12 and 13.
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