Al Rabeeh School is a KG to Grade 6 primary school located in Abu Dhabi. It is presently home to 800 pupils, the majority from the UAE, and follows the UK National curriculum.
The Story so Far
Al Rabeeh School was founded as it is today in 2002 and current Principal Riaan Huyser joined the school in September 2017. The school follows the English National Curriculum and teaches students ages 3 to 11 years old. The school is unique in offering a "bridging programme" whereby a large majority of students are taught one year ahead of their chronological age, with the aim of aligning students' attainment better to their age.
The school’s previous published inspection report was in October 2015 when it was rated Good, and it was also visited by inspectors in October 2017 to support the school in its transition and implementation of the bridging programme. As a result of this, Al Rabeeh School was inspected again fully in September 2018, a year later than previously programmed. The school is also a member of British Schools of the Middle East, through whom professional development for staff, and inter-school competitions and cooperation are organised.
According to the latest ADEK report (2018/2019) - which has been published on the school's website although ADEK itself has not released any reports for 2018-19 as yet - there are just under 800 students at the school, 50 percent of whom are Emirati. Whilst student numbers have fallen by around 20 since the previous full inspection in 2015-16, the number of Emirati students has fallen a great deal more - from 78% previously to 50%. This is a significant drop for a school that, due to its ownership, has specifically targeted local children. The remaining students come from Jordan (up to 13% from 5% previously), Egypt (10% from 5% previously), and Pakistan (now 4%) among other countries. Some 13% of students have been identified with Special Educational Needs.
Staff numbers have also dropped - from 66 teachers to 52, supported by over 40 teaching assistants. The school has a mid to high teacher to student ratio of 1:24 at FS and 1:16 in the primary classes which should permit plentiful individual support for children. There are between three and seven classes in each year group. Most of the teaching staff are British or have several years of experience teaching the National Curriculum for England. Teacher turnover has increased significantly from 25% in 2016 to 40% three years later. The recent changes suggest a degree of instability at a school that has a relatively long history. It is not clear what has driven this..
The school is owned by the Learn Group, part of the Royal Group, which owns approximately 60 companies across the UAE and has direct links to the highest echelon of Emirati society. It was originally established in 1997. Some of the parents whose children attend the school today are former pupils themselves and the focus on parental engagement has been a growing one in recent years.
According to its Vision statement, Al Rabeeh School aspires to be "A global community of thinkers, creators, innovators, and leaders who have a positive impact on the world of tomorrow".
What about the curriculum?
Al Rabeeh School offers the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum in FS and the English National Curriculum from years 1 to 6. Children also follow the Ministry of Education curriculum for Arabic, Islamic and Social Studies. In Foundation Stage 1 (FS1) and Foundation Stage 2 (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 it is through play that children learn best. The curriculum in FS1 and FS2 is designed to ignite children’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning and to build their capacity to learn, form relationships and thrive.
Year 1 marks the beginning of more formal education. Students develop their reading, writing, counting, adding, and subtracting skills, and explore and extend what they know about themselves and the world. Almost without exception students at Al Rabeeh speak English as their second language, and the language of communication throughout school is English. The school believes that the rapid acquisition of English is of great importance, and places considerable emphasis on teaching children correct English from their first days at Al Rabeeh.
Children are taught largely either on a whole class basis or in mixed ability or friendship groups. But the school also groups children by ability and sets special programmes to cater for the learning needs of individual children. In particular, children are divided into ability-based sets in the core subjects of English and Mathematics in some year groups, with the aim of enabling students to develop and progress according to their individual needs.
According to the school, the curriculum is planned in detail by class teachers and year group/phase leaders to ensure work is well matched to meet the learning needs of the children. Every child is challenged to reach his or her full potential. Children are assessed on a regular basis and reports are sent to parents termly. Testing in Maths and Science suggests that most children perform above curriculum expectations.
Al Rabeeh also offers an extensive co-curricular activities programme including academic, sporting, arts and crafts clubs. The programme is offered to students from FS1 to Year 6 and includes guidance from class teachers as well as specialist coaches from outside agencies. The school encourages students to become involved in ECAs to develop their skills and talents outside of regular school hours.
What about the facilities?
Relatively little information is provided about the facilities of the school. The current ADEK report notes that "classrooms and outside areas are developed well and used effectively to support independent learning through exploration in the FS. Specialist facilities are well developed, including sports, science and computer facilities. The school premises are hygienic, secure and very well maintained. The school premises provide a pleasant learning environment".
What the Inspectors Say
Al Rabeeh has now been rated Good for the second time in the most recent ADEK report. The summary of the report notes that "The majority of students’ achievement is above expectations for their age. Teaching is good overall.The school’s very effective self-evaluation processes have enabled leaders to plan effectively and sustain good outcomes for students". In fact, the school was rated Good across all six Key Performance Standards.
Since the previous inspection in 2015-16, children’s skills to be independent learners have improved. Children in the FS are inquisitive and learn to explore the world without the direction of their teachers. However, in Primary, students’ skills in undertaking enquiry, research and solving problems independently of their teachers remains an area for improvement. The curriculum has been improved to offer students more opportunities to be creative and independent in clubs. Attendance rates have improved from weak to good, and parents have more access to information to help them support their children’s learning.
Building a strong relationship with parents appears to have been a particular focus of the Al Rabeeh management team - the school acknowledges that it "continually recognises its parents (some of whom attended Al Rabeeh as pupils) and uses their ideas and feedback to positively enhance the school and improve enrichment activities".
In terms of Student Achievement, English, Maths, Science and other subjects are now rated Good across both FS and Primary, though Arabic subjects remain Acceptable. However, there has been no significant improvement in this respect, and this will clearly need to be a priority for the school going forward. Students with SEN, including those who are gifted and talented, are identified quickly and their needs are made known to teachers in school documents. Support arrangements for students with SEN ensures they make the same good progress as their peers.
ADEK inspectors identified the strengths of Al Rabeeh as:
Key areas for improvement include the need to address:
The school's fairly consistent performance, and perhaps its central location have made Al Rabeeh is a highly popular school.
What About Fees?
School fees range from AED 26,900 in FS1 to AED 33,200 in Year 6, which places it above average in terms of cost. There is a non-refundable registration fee of between AED 1,300 and AED 1,600 dependent on year group. However, in terms of offering, this is a school that is considered by its target families as good value, recording above average satisfaction levels for academic attainment and for its partnership with parents.
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