Al Shohub School Review

Al Shohub Private School in Abu Dhabi was founded in 1999 with the specific aim of providing an outstanding education to Emirati girls, although boys are accepted in the Foundation and Lower Primary stages.
At a glance
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Acceptable
Availability 2019/20
not_interested No
Availability 2020/21
not_interested No
Annual fee average
AED 35,000
Annual fees
AED 27,000 - 50,000
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Gender
Opening year
1999
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Marguerite Thornton-Gray
Main teacher nationality
British
Main student nationality
Emirati

Nearby nurseries

2.1km • EYFS curriculum
2.8km • Creative Curriculum curriculum
2.9km • EYFS curriculum
2.9km • Montessori curriculum
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Al Shohub School
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Acceptable
Availability 2019/20
not_interested No
Availability 2020/21
not_interested No
Annual fee average
AED 35,000
Annual fees
AED 27,000 - 50,000
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Gender
Opening year
1999
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Marguerite Thornton-Gray
Main teacher nationality
British
Main student nationality
Emirati
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First Published:
Saturday 30 June, 2012

Updated:
Tuesday 20 August, 2019

Al Shohub Private School in Abu Dhabi was founded in 1999 with the specific aim of providing an outstanding education to Emirati girls, although boys are accepted in the Foundation and Lower Primary stages.

The story so far...

Al Shohub Private School was founded by Her Highness Sheikha Shaikha bint Saif Al Nahyan in 1999 with the aim of ensuring that an outstanding education would be available to Emirati girls. The vast majority of students are UAE Nationals and the school appears to be very exclusive in its admissions policy.

The school's website states that its Vision is:

"To provide an outstanding education founded on academic excellence, encouraging students to be innovative, motivated and keen to learn".

The school Mission Statement says:

"Al Shohub provides a rich, well-rounded curriculum, which reflects our commitment as educators to bring out the strengths in each of our students, allowing them to achieve their full potential and equipping them to meet future challenges.

At the heart of all that we do at Al Shohub are our core Al Shohub values.

We value good behaviour, honesty and trust, tolerance, care and compassion.
We strive for continuous improvement and growth. We value excellence, our traditions and culture".

In 2018, the school's student numbers had declined significantly from 903 in 2016 to only 562 students, of which 190 were in the Foundation Section, 213 (previously 448) in the Primary school, 90 (previously 214) in the Secondary school and 67 in Years 10-13.  The teacher to student ratios was 1:12 through the school.  93% of students are Emirati, followed by Omani (1%) and Bahraini (1%).  Students from Yemen and Jordan and have decreased in number. 

Students are taught by 52 mainly British teachers, supported by 22 Teaching Assistants.  Whilst staff turnover in 2015 was 15% (relatively low by UAE standards), it increased to a whopping 42% in 2017.  It seems that there has been significant staff churn, including much of the senior management of the school, and this would appear to lie behind the significant drop in student numbers. 

It may also account for the school's ADEK rating in 2017-18, where the school's performance fell from Good to Acceptable.

What about the curriculum?

Al Shohub School is a UK-curriculum based school that takes both boys and girls from Foundation Stage 1 until Year 4 (4-8 years on entry), and girls only from Year 5 until Year 13. 

The school follows the UK National curriculum, adapted to the UAE environment, including Arabic, Islamic and Social Studies as prescribed by the Ministry of Education.  In years 10 and 11 the school offers IGCSE and GCSE courses in core subjects in English language, Mathematics, and double award Science.  Additional options include French, Travel and Tourism, Art and Design, ICT, Food and Nutrition, and Business Studies. GCE AS and A levels are offered in a range of subjects at Year 12 and Year 13. Students may elect to take up to three option choices at Advanced level (A-level). Current option choices include: Art, ICT, Business Studies, Mathematics, English literature, French, Biology, Physics, Global Development, and Travel and Tourism. Arabic language and Islamic Studies are also compulsory.

Reflecting the changes in the structure and delivery of KS5 in the UK, Al Shohub has introduced BTEC Level 3 examinations in Year 12, aimed at enabling students to undertake courses designed to develop a full range practical skills in work-related situations, including work experience, to complement the academic qualifications obtained via AS and A level study. Entry into the Sixth Form is based upon previous academic and examination performance, a good academic reference from the Principal of the current school and an interview with senior academic staff. A written entrance assessment in English Language, Arabic Language and Mathematics is conducted for new entrants into Year 2 until Year 10.

What about academic achievement?

Al Shohub School does not publish any information about its students' academic performance in external IGCSE, AS or A level examinations.  However, the most recent ADEK inspection report notes that:

"Achievement is weak in high, where students are currently generally making acceptable progress in lessons but have not attained the results they should in international examinations.  IGCSE results have varied widely between subjects and over time. In 2017, English as a second language results were outstanding and mathematics results good. Art results are very good. Science results have been weak over time, and weak results were recorded in some other subjects. Most students have been taking these examinations a year later than they should. Attainment in AS examinations taken in Year 12 has been weak, and students have not taken A-levels by the time they leave school".

The weakness in the Sixth Form/High school section must be a significant concern for the leadership of the school and an indicator of real concern for potential parents and students.

What about the facilities?

Al Shohub School was originally a villa school, founded in 1999; the school moved to purpose built accommodation in Khalifa City A in November 2013. Facilities at the new location look significantly improved and include large areas of outdoor space as well as a range of specialist teaching and community areas including Art rooms, laboratories and an impressive auditorium.

What the inspectors say

The school has been subjected to ADEK inspections in both 2014 and 2016 and, according to its website, has been inspected again in the 2017-18 academic year.  Interestingly, some of the school's ADEK inspection reports have not been published on the ADEK website.  However, a copy of the 2016 report  seen by WhichSchoolAdvisor.com shows that Al Shohub was rated Good in the 2015-16 inspection. 

Unfortunately, the rating fell to Acceptable in 2017-18 - still in line with the minimum requirements of the Abu Dhabi schools' regulator, but below the target of Good for all Abu Dhabi schools.

The change in staffing has clearly presented the new leadership of Al Shohub School with many challenges.  Despite the reduction in rating across four of the six Key Performance Standards, with only Students' Personal and Social Development and their Innovation Skills, together with the Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students, retaining Good ratings, the new team appears to be making progress in beginning to implement some of the still outstanding recommendations from the previous Inspection report.

Inspectors identified the school's strengths as:

  • The quality of teaching, learning and resources in the KG/FS1.
  • Students’ achievement in the KG/FS1, in English, science and Islamic education in the primary phase, and in art across the school.
  • Students’ behaviour, conduct, understanding of UAE culture,and their positive Islamic values.
  • The high standard of care for the welfare and safeguarding of students within an attractive environment.
  • The effective management of the day to day life of the school.

Areas of improvement identified by the inspectors included the need to: 

  • Improve students’ attainment, especially in the middle and high phases by: ensuring students are placed on programmes of study that are appropriate to their age, and that they can complete full A-level programmes in high school; improving the quality of teaching, particularly in setting sufficiently high expectations for all students;  improving the use of assessment information by teachers and school leaders to monitor and improve students’ attainment and progress; ensuring sufficient challenge in lessons for more-able students and those who are Gifted and Talented; [and] further developing innovation in the classroom and the promotion of students’ skills for independent learning.
  • Improve students’ weak attendance and punctuality by: further raising the profile of good attendance and punctuality among students through the systems of rewards and sanctions; communicating more effectively with parents to stress the importance of good attendance and punctuality.
  • Strengthen the accountability for subject performance and students’ achievement across the school by: ensuring that new assessment systems are implemented with consistent effect across all phases of the school; ensuring that teachers and leaders all understand how to interpret assessment information and can benchmark the school’s performance against international standards; developing middle leadership in the school with responsibilities for improving achievement and teaching in year groups and subjects; [and] strengthening the monitoring of teaching and learning so that the work of teachers is observed frequently and they are given clear feedback related to the learning and progress of their students.

Clearly, there are significant improvements to be made - most notably in regard to the standards and quality of teaching and assessment, raising expectations of both staff and students and ensuring that the delivery of the curriculum is personalised to the needs and abilities of all students.   Parents too clearly have a role to play in ensuring that their children attend school at the required time and in maintaining discipline in this regard. 

The weakness of Student Achievement in the High school section (years 10-13) should be a real concern - even attainment in subjects such as Art and Music, in addition to the core English-language taught academic ones, was rated Weak by the inspection team in the most senior section of the school.

It seems that something has gone rather wrong at Al Shohub School in the past two years. Its Founder's goal of an Outstanding quality of education seems to have been lost somewhere along the way.  Fees at the school are such that this is not sustainable.  They start at AED 25,500 and rise to AED 49,980. This is relatively pricey (though there have been slight reductions across the school), at the premium end of the market, and comparable with a number of highly rated Abu Dhabi schools.  The school is, according to ADEK, well resourced in terms of facilities and materials, and adequately staffed.  Essentially the infrastructure has been provided to enable students to reach their targets.

Standards will need to improve rapidly at Al Shohub if the school is not to see more parents and their children vote with their feet.

 

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