Al Yasmina School, located in Abu Dhabi, offers a British curriculum for students from three to eighteen years old, and has a capacity for 2000 students, but is currently attended by 1,732 (up from 1,556 pupils).
Al Yasmina School was the second opened by Aldar Academies, founded in 2008, after the launch of Pearl Primary, another highly regarded school in the capital. The school says it regularly receives applicants from other Aldar schools - The Pearl and Al Muna, however "these are not feeder schools as they are located within the city". The vast majority of students at Al Yasmina continue from primary into secondary.
The school regularly does well in WhichSchoolAdvisor.com surveys. In the 2015 School Survey, 82 percent of parents said they would recommend the school to other parents - which puts it in the Top 20 most recommended schools in the UAE.
No one demographic group dominates with students representing over 86 nationalities (one of the most diverse populations for a school in the UAE). The two most sizable populations have recently swapped ranking - 30% are from the UAE (previously 21%) and 23% are British (previously 27%) . Other significant groups are from Australia, America, Egypt, Canada, Jordan, India and South Africa. In total, 49% are Muslim.
The school has identified 10% of students as needing additional support. The majority of those affected have dyslexia, moderate learning needs or speech and language difficulties according to the 2015-16 ADEC inspection report. The school does not use standardised tests for entry as it is non‐selective; it conducts baseline assessments. Eight percent of students have been identified as gifted and talented.
The school has two designated SEN departments that support children who have learning difficulties or are gifted and talented. There is also clear differentiation within each class and Al Yasmina has the option for streaming by sets in both the secondary school and upper primary to ensure all children are being targeted at the correct level. The general cost of SEN provision is incorporated in the school fees. "In some rare instances if we can’t meet the needs of a pupil we may ask for additional staff to be brought in. This cost is split equally between the parents and the school." EAL Teachers are in place to support students who need language support.
The school has been ranked as a Very Good school with Outstanding features by the Abu Dhabi education authority (2105/16 inspection). This rating has been retained for the most recent inspections but the school has a clearly stated ambition to be ranked Outstanding by 2019 according to its Whole Academy Intentions for 2015-19, stating its intent to be "an ADEK Outstanding school and a BSME accredited school."
School's strengths are passionate beliefs, high expectations and a clarity of shared vision of its leaders that results in a "relentless pursuit of excellence"; students’ very high quality personal skills, a positive ethos that supports a harmonious community in which students flourish, are very happy and enjoy school; the wealth and quality of opportunities that enrich learning beyond the formal curriculum; the high level of attainment and progress in subjects taught in English in comparison with best international standards.
Only Arabic provision is singled out as requiring further enhancement, although the school has recently recruited heavily to strengthen its Arabic language capabilities.
Aldar is better known as one of the biggest construction and property management companies in Abu Dhabi, but it also manages one of the most highly regarded primary schools in the capital, Pearl Primary.
Al Yasmina itself is held to be one of the best British curriculum schools in Abu Dhabi, competing with, but often second choice to the more established British School for those wanting their children to follow a GCSE and then A' Level path.
Al Yasmina operates with separate primary and secondary schools. Pupils move to the secondary school for Year 7 and upwards. There are currently 257 children in Kindergarten (KG), 747 students in the primary section, 601 students in the secondary section and 127 in post-16.
The Primary School at Al Yasmina is divided into 3 sections - the Early Years Foundation Stage (FS1 and 2), Key Stage 1 (Years 1 and 2) and Key Stage 2 (Years 3, 4, 5 and 6). The curriculum is based upon the National Curriculum of England and Wales but is modified to reflect the society and culture of the United Arab Emirates.
Across phases the school employs 169 teachers (up from 142 teachers), 52 classroom assistants, 12 administrative staff and 2.5 school nurses. The teacher to student ration is 1:25 in FS, 1:25 in Primary, 1:24 in Middle and 1:22 in High. The maximum class size in terms of student numbers at the school is currently 28.
The significant growth in teacher numbers this academic year has been to allow a greater focus on Arabic and "ensure we have an Arabic department that can cater for the needs of all subjects". The school has also added additional exam boards, is therefore able to deliver more subjects, requiring an increase in staff numbers to deliver them.
Teachers are mainly recruited from the UK.
Students begin their secondary school years in Key Stage 3 (Years 7, 8 and 9), following the National Curriculum of England and Wales, and then move into Key Stage 4 (Years 10 and 11).
During KS4 students sit GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) and IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) external examinations. The IGCSE or GCSE is not a choice - the school offers the UK or international versions of the qualification depending on the subject.
There are currently 24 subject option choices to year 10/11 students.
Post‐16 students do GCE Advanced (A) Level study. Al Yasmina offers the following as AS/A' Levels for those choosing to stay on: Maths, Further Maths, English Language, English Literature, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, French, History, Geography, DT Product Design, Applied ICT, Business Studies with Economics, Music, Drama, A Level Physical Education, Pure Economics, Psychology and Media Studies. There is a total of 21 option choices available to year 12/13 students.
More unusually (in the UAE) and interestingly the school offers BTEC qualifications, promoted in the United Kingdom to those students seeking a vocational route within education. Subjects are limited - and include Art Subsidiary and Art Diploma, Sport Subsidiary and Sport Diploma. WSA strongly believes in vocational education, and would like to see more schools offering BTEC style offerings, and expanding the range of subjects offered.
The above Post-16 subjects are offered in addition to MoE Arabic and Islamic Studies. The school also offers the 'World Challenge Expedition' programme to students at Post 16.
All children are allocated to houses: Endeavor (Green), Voyager (Red), Challenger (Yellow) and Discovery (Blue). These houses apply to both the secondary and primary school. Two house captains are chosen from Year 6 for head of the primary houses and two are chosen from the secondary school to be the captains of the secondary houses.
The teaching staff are reported to be highly experienced with appropriate qualifications in the British education system, as are said to have a track record in proving their delivery of high quality education. The school has an annual publication for its results, which can be found on its website. Results are impressive.
At GCSE in 2015/16, 82% achieved five A* to C grades including Maths and English and 86% in any subject - compared to a UK average of 58.6%. One out of two students achieved five A* to A grades.
Note: The school has a "value added" grade of 1053 which would put it in the top 5% of UK schools. Value added measures the improvement in students from the date of entry, and is a means to analyse the contribution of a school, over and above natural student ability.
Al Yasmina also reports its A' Level results. In 2016, 94% of students who sat 3 or more A Levels recorded at least 3 A* - E grades and 48% of students who sat 2 or more A Levels achieved 2 A*- B grades. For A levels in 2017, the school noted that nine students achieved all A* to A grades, while "68 percent of students achieved one or more A* to B grades". Unfortunately, the school does not provide details of the number of students involved - we know that this was 33 students in 2014, but assume that the Sixth Form cohort has grown significantly since this time.
To help students transition to university, all students receive mentors. The school has a careers advisor to support students, and hosts several university open evenings. The school also provides help with writing personal statements, online applications SAT’s, IELTS, COPA and all other international test for students.
The school's building and facilities are modern, up to date and impressive having been built recently, by Aldar, who know a thing or two about construction. Some parents grumble that while facilities are impressive, they do not get the use they could. The school claims many extracurricular clubs - offering "activities ranging from drama and musical productions to sport, Spanish lessons and revision groups".
The school has a sports calendar on its web site, and clearly intra school competitions are important. During the school term there are multiple fixtures for cricket, football, equestrian, sailing... The school year runs from September to June and is divided into 3 terms. The main school holidays are winter break (mid-December to early January), spring break (late March to mid-April) and summer break (late June to early September).
Feedback from parents, students and teaching staff is predominately highly positive. This is undoubtedly a well run, caring, and well performing school.
More importantly this is a school that according to its ADEC Irtiqaa report has not only improved considerably since its first report in 2010, but started off well, and is still getting better. Students enter below the UK expectation level, but by the end of reception exceed those levels "in all areas" - reflecting the "Value Added" rating of the school. Students continue to make advancements as they proceed through the school according to the report.
The school itself says it makes a real effort to ensure its students "have a broad and balanced curriculum and not only get the qualifications that they need, but also get life skills that will guide them throughout their lives... The amount of extra-curricular activities offered is truly outstanding and there is a determined attitude by all that that every single child here matters. This is why we create lifelong learners who will go on to make a difference in the world."
Al Yasmina has also been inspected by the British Schools in the Middle East (BSME) organisation (February 2014). It has been rated as being "Well above the required standard" in all areas of the inspection. That would make Al Yasmina the first school in the UAE to be rated "Well above the required standard" in all areas of the inspection, the only all-age school in Middle East to be rated as such, and only the third school of all those inspected to be rated as such.
Fees are at the very top end for the capital, ranging from AED 41,580 (FS1) to AED 57,330 (Year 13) according to information on the school's web site and are paid in three equal installments (2017/18 fees). There is also a registration fee of AED 2000. The fees are premium, but on a par with other high performing schools in Abu Dhabi. Yasmina also offers a paid bus service, which costs AED 5,841 per year. The cost is the same for both one-way and two-way travel.
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