Al Rabeeh Academy is a relatively new and successful UK curriculum school which opened in Mohammed bin Zayed City in 2017.
Al Rabeeh Academy (ARA) opened in 2017 on a purpose-built campus at Mohammed bin Zayed City. It is a sister to Al Rabeeh School which opened in 2002 and is located on Abu Dhabi Island. According to the Academy's ADEK inspection report from 2018-19, when it was rated Good on its first inspection - a very strong achievement for a new school - the majority of students initially transferred from the original school.
ARA embraces the values of Respect, Responsibility and Resilience, alongside Tolerance, Kindness and Honesty. According to the school website, "We believe that together these values provide all at Al Rabeeh Academy with a sense of direction and a vision to create a stable, moral community that fosters positive relationships and excellent educational practice. We aspire to be … A global community of thinkers, creators, innovators, and leaders who have a positive impact on the world of tomorrow."
ARA states that "The personal and social development of students is a central aim of our curriculum." The Academy wants students to be able to: Make and sustain good relationships; Have a healthy lifestyle; Be safe; Be able to co-operate with others; Have clear values and attitudes; Make choices with a moral context; Take responsibility; To be self-disciplined; To be self-motivated; Express opinions sensitively and confidentially; Think critically; [and] Be self-reliant.
This is a school that as a result of its effective opening - and no doubt also the relationship with the long-established sister school - has not only been able to open successfully, but has also been permitted to grow very quickly. It is now open from FS1 to Year 11 in the current academic year. Whilst the speed of the development was evidently well managed by the original opening team, it will be interesting to see whether the same level of efficiency and control has been possible over the past two years. It is often when schools are growing so rapidly, that management issues may come to light.
Having said this, it seems that the owners of ARA are keen to put in place systems, procedures and, most importantly, a Senior leadership team that are experienced in this situation. In January 2020, the school was joined by Ms. Barbara Lubaczewska as Principal. Ms. Lubaczewska is no stranger to the UAE and to new school growth, having been the Founding Principal of Amity International School Abu Dhabi. Located similarly in an area that is largely Emirati, Ms. Lubaczewska has clearly already gained both the experience of a school with rapid growth and a similar population at her previous school.
Introducing ARA, Ms. Lubaczewska comments: "I am delighted to welcome you to Al Rabeeh Academy, a truly premier school in Abu Dhabi for students from FS1 to year 13. Our state of the art facility is a welcome expansion of the well-established, highly reputable ‘A Grade’ Al Rabeeh School in Abu Dhabi City.
Al Rabeeh Academy prides itself on being a caring, family school with a strong sense of national identity. The Academy has a high commitment to academic success and providing a well-rounded education. Our teachers are committed to challenging and inspiring each student to achieve their dreams and to become passionate learners. Teachers strive to make learning relevant and fun. We aim to increase children’s awareness of 21st Century learning skills, while focusing on innovation and technology, in order to prepare them for a rapidly changing world."
Ms. Lubaczewska, with 15 years of headship in the UK and in international schools, a Bachelor's Degree in Education, a National Professional Qualification for Headship, and as a trained school inspector for British Schools in the Middle East and British Schools Overseas, clearly comes with the experience and background to take Al Rabeeh Academy forward. With teaching experience of 25 years spanning Early Years, Primary and Secondary phases, including mainstream and schools for Special Educational Needs, she is "passionate about creating and maintaining positive and progressive environments for pupils and staff, to learn and further develop individual interests, talents and abilities."
With a Senior leadership team including a Head of Primary and Secondary, together with a Head of Arabic, Islam and UAE Studies, ARA employed a staff of 57 teachers and 24 teaching assistants at the time of its ADEK inspection in 2018-19. This number will have grown further with the growth of the Secondary school section in the past two years. All English Curriculum teachers have English as their first language and are English Curriculum trained or have English National Curriculum teaching experience. The Academy also has a strong Arabic and Islamic Studies Department staffed by well qualified Arab teachers.
Again, at the time of the inspection, there were close to 700 students studying at ARA. This figure has also grown significantly in the past two years. 90% of students were UAE nationals, followed by Jordanian and Egyptian children (each 2%) and Yemini nationals (1%). Whilst the vast majority of students are native Arabic speakers, there are also non-native Arabic speakers who have joined the school. Almost without exception, students speak English as their second language, however the language of communication throughout the school is English. A teacher:student ratio of 1:12 assures relatively small class sizes, and the potential for individualised teaching and support as necessary.
From Foundation Stage classes until Year 5, students learn in a co-educational environment. A segregated education for girls and boys is offered from Year 5 on the same campus.
ARA offers Primary and Secondary students the English National Curriculum alongside ADEK and MOE provision. Al Rabeeh Academy is a member of the British Schools of the Middle East, ensuring that it offers a genuine "British education" which is accredited through the BSME inspection process.
The main syllabus is based on the EYFS Curriculum and National Curriculum for England using resources produced in the U.K. taking into account UAE cultural and geographical settings. Islamic Studies, U.A.E. Social Studies and Arabic are taught according to the UAE Ministry of Education guidelines, books and syllabi.
In FS1 and FS2, the curriculum has been designed for children between the ages of 3 and 5 years. Most of the activities at this age are play-based, as the EYFS curriculum is based on the belief that it is through play that children learn best. Each FS year group has access to dedicated indoor and outdoor learning environments, offering the children a well-equipped range of learning opportunities; sand, water, construction, role play, creative and investigative play. Children are taught predominantly by their classroom teacher and receive specialist lessons in Arabic, Islamic studies and swimming.
ARA's staff believe that children must be exposed to explorative and investigate play, where children have opportunities to take risks, solve problems, develop responsibility and become independent learners. Teachers plan a selection of activities to stimulate and encourage children’s skills development, continually challenging their thinking. The individual needs of each child are key to the success in their development. Regular assessments throughout the day enable teachers see establish what each child can do and supports future planning to reflect the next steps in each child’s development.
Key Stage 1 is comprised of two-year groups: Year 1 (ages 5-6) and Year 2 (ages 6-7). Here, the underlying aim of the curriculum and teaching is to further build on the foundations laid in EYFS and continue to provide a safe, secure and stimulating learning environment that encourages children to become confident in their own abilities. Students are primarily taught by their classroom teacher but receive specialist teaching in Arabic language, Islamic Studies, Performing Arts, Computer Studies and PE.
Students increasingly understand how they learn and begin to take ownership of their learning. The opportunities for social, emotional and language development of the children are a focus of this period. There is a specific focus on phonics, literacy and numeracy development during this stage, in the knowledge that these are the cornerstones of future learning. Emphasis is placed on partnerships with teachers working closely with parents to address the individual needs of the children.
Key Stage 2 covers Year 3 to Year 6 with students spanning the ages of 7 to 11. This period builds on the learning developed in Years 1 and 2 and prepares students for a successful transition into secondary school. Students experience a broad, rich and challenging curriculum where their development will be characterised by an increasing level of independence alongside the acquisition of essential skills, knowledge and understanding.
Rigorous assessment processes, differentiated teaching, a stimulating learning environment and excellent home school communication all help to contribute to the success of students in Key Stage 2. Students are predominantly taught by their classroom teacher, but during the year receive specialist teaching in Arabic language, Islamic Studies, Moral Education, Computer Studies, Art, Design Technology, Performing Arts and PE.
The Secondary curriculum is broad-based with a combination of subjects. Core subjects are English, Mathematics, Science and Arabic Studies. ARA also offers French, Computing, Geography, History, Music, Drama, PE, Art and Design Technology. Regular and consistent assessment tracks students’ progress across the curriculum and identifies those who need additional support and guidance.
In Year 10, students continue to study the core subjects of English, Maths, Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Arabic. Students also have the opportunity to study further option subjects, such as Business Studies, ICT, Geography, History, French, Art and Design Technology, so that students can individualise their curriculum to meet their interests and future career paths. This allows students to achieve the secondary equivalency certificate, Shahadat Al-Thanawiya Al-Amma which is evidence of their secondary schooling in the UAE.
Students are expected to take the UK public GCSE examinations in Year 11 which provide the academic basis for entry to Years 12 and 13 for A Level examinations, the attainment of which opens doors to universities both in the UK and internationally.
The most able students are well catered for through challenge in the lessons with a wide variety of curricular and extra-curricular opportunities to stretch them academically and ensure they reach their full potential.
Students with special needs benefit from a range of intervention programmes and receive additional support from teaching and support staff. ARA provides learning support for identified pupils, however, the Academy states that "specialist resources, classroom environments and staffing are limited."
Parents of students requiring special educational needs are advised to discuss the needs of their child with the administration before registration to ensure Al Rabeeh Academy can meet the needs of their child. Children who are placed on the "Special Educational Needs" register at Al Rabeeh Academy are provided with termly Individual Education Plans (IEPs). The SEN Teacher, Class Teacher and parents work together to set the targets in the IEP.
As yet it is too soon to comment on the successes of individual students; this will first come to light when the current Year 11 students take their GCSE examinations in 2021 (assuming that examinations go ahead in light of the still current Covid-19 pandemic).
However, we do know that all students are assessed on a regular basis to monitor progress towards meeting the standards required for entry into the next phase of their education. UK standardised assessments are now being used to help support reporting and measure progress and attainment and in line with all Abu Dhabi schools, students will participate in the global PISA and TIMMS bench-marking tests.
Al Rabeeh Academy contains a range of specialist facilities including a purpose built EYFS department with large break-out learning environments, science laboratories, state-of-the-art classrooms, Mac computer suites, outdoor sports pitches, a swimming pool and a canteen. Further details are not provided, but the school was found to be well-resourced by the ADEK inspection team.
The achievement of a Good rating on its first inspection should not be under-estimated. In our experience at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com it is a relatively rare achievement - although certainly one that seems to be more common to UK curriculum higher fee schools. In so doing, Al Rabeeh Academy has already managed a rating that is above the minimum requirement of ADEK.
The inspection team noted that "The large majority of students transferred to this academy from Al Rabeeh school. The school has successfully managed a ‘Bridging Programme’ to ensure that all students are learning in line with the English National Curriculum and ADEK requirements."
School leaders were found to have successfully established a new school, promoting a clear vision and direction. They have secured good teaching and a safe environment for learning. This has resulted in students’ good progress in most subjects particularly in the Arabic medium-subjects, and in all phases particularly in the Foundation Stage (FS).
In fact, all six key performance standards were rated Good. The ratings for Student Achievement varied between Acceptable and Good in most subjects across the school. It is notable that whilst students may not have yet reached a Good level of attainment (whereby they are exceeding curriculum standards), their progress - that is the level of development of their learning - is almost universally Good. The FS and Primary sections were seen to be stronger than the (then much smaller) Secondary section.
Inspectors particularly commented positively on Students’ positive attitudes and engagement in lessons, Students’ collaboration skills and Students’ application of their learning to real-life.
The two key performance standards of Teaching and Assessment, and the Curriculum, were also rated Good. It is invariably the case that only where these two standards are highly rated, will students' achievement be rated equally highly.
Students' personal and social development, and their innovation skills were rated Good across the school, although innovation as a specific measure was rated Acceptable.
The protection, care, guidance and support of students were also rated Good. Students with SEN and those who are Gifted and Talented (G&T) were found to be accurately identified and well supported in lessons by teaching assistants and differentiated learning programmes. However, G&T students were not yet sufficiently challenged beyond extra-curricular provision. Inspectors also noted that students’ well-being is monitored effectively by the school. Older students receive good advice about their career choices and future learning pathways.
Lastly, the final key performance standard of Leadership and Management was also rated Good. Inspectors found that Leaders had successfully established a new school. They have set a clear strategic direction and vision for developing successful learning. Best practice in teaching, learning and assessment is shared effectively and the daily management of the school is a strength.
Regular communication and reporting ensure that parents are kept well informed about how students achieve. School leaders have developed links with the community. However, inspectors noted that the partnership with parents was only acceptable. Parents do support school events such as Flag Day; however, their views are not systematically gathered, although the introduction of the parent council aims to address this shortfall.
Overall, inspectors found the strengths of Al Rabeeh Academy to be:
In terms of areas for improvement, the inspectors identified the following requirements:
If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly advise that you do so in order to understand the detailed reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.
At this early stage in Al Rabeeh Academy's development, it is clear from the ADEK inspection that the school has made a good start and has the potential to develop further. Given the moderately premium fees that the school charges, this should be expected, and hopefully, will allow parents to feel that they are receiving value for money, given their investment.
Early in the school's development, in 2018, parents were invited by ADEK to participate in their Parent Survey. At this stage, there were 357 students attending the school, and 167 responses were received from their parents. Overall, the school was rated across 8 key criteria with a maximum score achievable of 5. Al Rabeeh Academy scored an average of 4; this was higher than 47.1% of other Abu Dhabi schools rated Good by ADEK in their overall inspection.
This report makes interesting reading, and is definitely worth review - you will find it here.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com also asks parents, teachers and students to participate in our own surveys. If you would like to share your experience with other potential members of your community, please do so by completing our survey here.
The owners and leadership of Al Rabeeh Academy clearly have ambitious plans for their school - always a positive sign. We are particularly impressed by the appointment of Ms. Lubaczewska as the Principal, given her previous Abu Dhabi experience and also her background in school improvement and inspections - notably for BSME and BSO.
One step that we would like to see at the Academy is the completion of the British Schools Overseas inspection process. This is a very clear sign of commitment to the highest standards by international British curriculum schools.
Al Rabeeh Academy is a school that is largely attended by local Emirati families, and as a rule, we at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com do not tend to reviews these. However, we believe that there is potentially an option for non-Arabic speakers to be well-supported at this school which, by definition, is inclusive. A broader mix of nationalities would provide an opportunity for students of all backgrounds to develop their knowledge of international cultures.
Fees at Al Rabeeh Academy are definitely on the higher side of mid-range for a UK curriculum school in Abu Dhabi. They start at AED 39,800 for FS1, rising to AED 40,000 for FS2 and Year 1, AED 43,000 for Years 2 to 6, and AED 46,000 for Years 7 to 13. These figures include a 5% annual registration fee which is non-refundable, and book fees. Fees can be paid in three termly installments.
Family discounts of 10% for the third and fourth child of a family, and 15% for the fifth child onwards, are also available.
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