Al Muna Academy has every right to feel happy. It was the first school in Abu Dhabi to have been awarded, for the 2015-16 academic year, an A1 rating (Outstanding) by the emirate's inspection team and is still the only stand-alone primary school to receive such a grading. It has now cemented that achievement by again being rated Outstanding in the 2017-18 inspection round.
Al Muna Academy is located in Al Markaziyah, Abu Dhabi in a traditional school building located around interior quadrangles, and was established in September of 2009. There is certainly nothing "flashy" about the school or its facilities, but it continues to succeed in offering an excellent standard of education. It provides schooling for pupils from Foundation Stage 1 (FS1) or pre-KG up to Grade 6 and acts as a feeder school to Al Bateen Academy, Al Mamoura Academy and Al Yasmina Academy sister schools.
The 2015 ADEC rating meant the primary school had moved up one inspection rating every time it had been reviewed and it has now, for the 2017-18 academic year, succeeded in retaining the Outstanding rating - one of only a very select group of schools in Abu Dhabi Emirate to have achieved this.
The school says it prides itself on "being a happy, well organised school offering children a range of activities in and out of the classroom".
"Academically we know that children make outstanding progress in their time here."
The school's almost 600 pupils are looked after by almost 80 staff, and including 43 teachers and 35 teaching assistants. This is a reduction in number over the past two years, when almost 100 staff were responsible for a similar number of students. As a result, the Teacher to Student ratio has increased from 1:12 to 1:13 in FS and although has been a slight reduction from 1:15 to 1:14 in the rest of the school. Approximately 21% of children are UAE nationals, followed by 12% Indian, 12% Egyptian and 9% from the UK. Some 50+ nationalities are represented in total.
As with all Aldar Academies, there is a strong focus on supporting children with additional learning needs, with approximately 10% of students in need of support from the specialist SEND team. The school has an "Oasis" room for children with particular Special Educational Needs. It also employs a counsellor for children with emotional difficulties or who just need someone to talk to.
Al Muna's entry in the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Happiest School in the UAE video competition.
Average class size in terms of student numbers currently numbers 25, which is also currently the largest class size at the school.
Teachers are recruited mainly from the British Isles.Teacher turnover at the school is at 18%, relatively low by UAE standards. After a number of years with very stable management, the previous Head has recently moved to open a new school in Dubai. It will be interesting to see what impact, if any, the change of Principal will have on the school. The school says it has an extensive Continuous Professional Development plan for its teachers, and is the only school in the UAE to have the Investors in People Award and is the only school in the Middle East to hold the UK equalities award.
The school follows the National Curriculum of England with lessons in Arabic being taught along with subjects in Islamic studies and UAE social studies to meet the requirements of the UAE's Ministry of Education.
In addition to offering UK based Key Stage 1 to 2, Al Muna Academy offers Foundation classes based on the EYFS framework for 3 to 5 year olds. Many children are non-English speakers on entry to the school, and this has been carefully addressed through the recruitment of native-Arabic speakers as teaching assistants. Their role is not only to support non-English speakers as they join the school, but also to provide Arabic support to non-Arabic speakers. This arrangement seems to work extremely effectively.
Lessons are also carefully differentiated to cater for mixed abilities according to the school's web site, a claim that is backed up in the school's inspection report. Teaching on the whole is said to be outstanding, well planned, structured and with an emphasis on independent research and critical reasoning.
Al Muna Academy offers a number of extra curricular activities and after school clubs including sports, art, and culture. These include such diverse activities as Art, Animation, Lego Inventors Club, Origami, Drama, Dance, Computers and Technology, Sailing and Water Sports, Gymnastics Yoga and Aerobics. Children are expected to participate in at least one Extra curricular activity per term.
Although the buildings themselves are traditional, facilities at the school have been updated to include a large astro-turf field, outdoor swimming pool, well stocked library, a large multi-purpose hall and gym, a number of computer suites and outdoor play areas. Large common spaces between classrooms in the corners of the quadrangular buildings are used effectively for free-flow and shared activity spaces.
What the inspectors say
ADEK inspectors are fulsome in their praise of standards at Al Muna Academy. The overall performance of the school is outstanding. Every one of the 6 key performance standards are rated Outstanding. Even the Teaching and Assessment overall standard is rated Outstanding, although several indicators are Good or Very Good.
Students' overall achievement is outstanding. Attainment is outstanding in English, Maths and Science at primary level, and in English at FS. Students' progress is very good overall with progress in English, Maths and Science being outstanding. Trends over time show the school is maintaining high standards across all English-medium subjects and an improvement trend across all Arabic-medium subjects (rated Good), and particularly Islamic education (rated Very Good).
Interestingly, the inspectors note that one third of students have attended the school for only two years. The school has successfully integrated these incoming students through a quality induction programme, and maintains very good standards of achievement.
The inspectors summarise what the school does best as: Inspirational leadership that motivates staff and ensures an inclusive school, a shared vision that is understood by staff, students and parents, and highly effective self-evaluation which all lead to very high student achievement. They note Students’ active engagement in imaginative and engaging lessons that promote their critical thinking and innovation skills, and High quality teaching and assessment which enables students to make very good progress in their learning.
The only key area for improvement is in relation to students’ achievement in Arabic and Social Studies.
Feedback WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has received from parents, students and teachers has so far has been limited, but parents we have spoken to seem broadly supportive and positive of the school. Leadership is described as "inspirational" in the ADEK Iritqaa Inspection report - a strong word.
ADEK inspectors note that partnerships with parents are consistently professional and highly effective in raising standards. There is a clear focus in the school on consultation and empowering parents as partners. Parents receive accurate and informative reports which identify what their children need to do to improve.
The school is owned and managed by Aldar Academies which runs some of the most highly regarded schools in the emirate, including The Pearl Primary School and Al Yasmina School. Students from AMPS are given priority in admission to the newish Al Bateen Secondary School and Al Mamoura Academy secondary schools, which opened in 2011 and 2016 respectively.
Fees for Al Muna Academy are 41,580 AED per year, no matter the school grade. AMPS gives priority in admission to siblings of current students, followed by children of Aldar or Mubadala employees and then all other applicants.
Fees are paid three times a year for each term.
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