Set at the heart of Abu Dhabi island, 3 streets back from the Corniche in an area surrounded by less than elegant apartment buildings, Al Muna Academy occupies are traditional 2-storey building set around a central courtyard and surrounded by greenery on all sides. There is a very large astroturf pitch to the right of the buildings which has recently been relaid. Entering the school, visitors are struck by the animal cages to the left of the entrance which are occupied by ducks, chickens, tortoises and rabbits. Local cats also enjoy the shade here.
The bright, light and open entrance lobby leads to the admin offices on one side and the large Sports Hall and sports facilities on the other. These include Basketball courts and a 25m swimming pool. The heart of the school is set behind the reception through a door that leads to an open quadrangle where children play during break times. Classrooms are located in the buildings on 3 sides of the quadrangle and each year group is arranged around a central area, where there are additional resources available, as well as further play areas for younger children. Classrooms all have outside access and are light, bright and busy. There is a separate play area for Foundation children and FS 2 children are located in the corner of building, ensuring that they have a larger central area. Staffing in FS is generous, with a teacher, 2 teaching assistants and a shared teaching assistant in FS1 and a teacher, teaching assistant and a shared assistant in FS2.
Further classrooms are a little more formal to take into account the older ages of the children. Year 1 is bright, cheerful and very colourful. In year 2, the central area is also used as a hub for ICT. Each Key stage of the school has access to 30 laptops and I-pads are used for ICT and Literacy and Numeracy work. Much homework is prepared on lap tops to avoid using large amounts of paper. The central areas for the Key Stage 2 children are less busy and more business-like and spacious. Children are able to work in small groups or individually in these areas. The first floor also offers a very large library with over 11,000 books with a large Arabic section which offers traditional seating for children to enjoy the books in the right surroundings. There are also computers for children who are involved in an accelerated learning programme.
The school has specialist staff for Music, French and ICT as well as external staff who support the Music and PE Departments. The school offers Piano, Guitar, Flute, Violin and Saxophone as additional lessons. PE staff teach a wide range of sports including swimming for all children from FS2 to year 6 on a weekly basis. FS1 children take part in a water familiarisation programme over 12 weeks from March each year to familiarise them in advance of lessons starting in FS2. There are also external providers offering Horse-riding, sailing and Jiu-jitsu as part of the wide range of After School activities in which all staff are involved. On Thursday mornings, children throughout the school take part in a weekly Aerobics session.
Children come from a wide mix of nationalities, with the largest groups being British, European, Indian and Arabic. 23% of students are UAE nationals and 50% of students are native Arabic speakers. 75% of students require English Additional Language support when they join the school. In FS, as with English language teaching, both Arabic and non-Arabic speakers learn the Arabic language together with an immersive approach. There are 2 Arabic teachers and 2 Arabic speaking teaching assistants and children are taught Arabic for 30 minutes each day. In addition, the Arabic staff are involved in all free-play sessions and are therefore a familiar and normal sight to children. From year 3, children also learn French.
The school also has a very inclusive approach towards children with additional learning or physical needs and arranges both Learning support staff employed by the school or oversees staff provided by parents. The Oasis centre offers a Head of SEN and a number of staff work with children with additional learning needs. There is also a school counsellor providing pastoral care.
Currently children leaving Al Muna in year 6 are offered places automatically either at Al Bateen Academy on Abu Dhabi Island or the newly opened girls-only secondary school - Al Mamoura Academy. With the opening of the new school at Mamoora in September 2016, there will be a “Girls only” Secondary option which staff feel may well appeal to many of the year girls leaving Al Muna. Wherever they move on to, these children will have been fortunate to have attended a school that has such a warm, friendly and clearly inclusive environment. This is a really happy place.
Al Muna Academy is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:
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