Ambassdor International Academy is a new, first of its kind, UK/IB combined curriculum school, opened in the Al Khail Gate development (close to the Al Khail Road and at the rear of Al Qouz Industrial area).
Ambassdor International Academy, launched in September 2019, is a sister to the existing Ambassador School in the Bur Dubai Mankhool area (rated Good by the KHDA for its past three inspections) and the Ambassador Kindergarten and Nursery (a feeder to the school) which was rated Very Good in the 2017-18 inspection programme.
Originally anticipated to be another Indian curriculum school in line with the current Ambassador School and Kindergarten, a somewhat late launch in 2019 surprised us at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com. Not only is the school not CISCE, as anticipated, nor is it a straight-forward UK or IB curriculum school, but rather plans to offer a combination of the two, and this from Early Years to Grade 8.
What about the curriculum?
Children follow the content of the English National Curriculum, but taught within the framework of the International Baccalaureate PYP and MYP programmes, based on their inquiry-based and cross-curricular approach to learning. Classes will operate from pre-KG to Grade 5 in the first year. In its marketing material, the school states that it will have a teacher:student ratio of 1:8 in KG and 1:14 in the Primary classes. This should ensure plentiful personal attention for children.
In addition, AIA is going rather against the trend of schools in Dubai, who had previously offered IGCSE for Grades 9 and 10 but have now abandoned this combination in favour of the IB programme only. AIA will offer the Cambridge curriculum IGCSE two year examination programme, and students will subsequently have the choice of either A Levels (from the UK curriculum) or the IB Diploma programme.
It will be interesting to see how the school manages this. Over the years, we have advocated this dual curriculum approach at Sixth Form/Grades 11 and 12, but had found that the significant investment required in staffing for the two curricula at this level - particularly in order to be able to deliver the breadth of subjects that we feel must be offered - meant that UAE-based schools were simply not willing to make the financial investment. This has recently changed, with both GEMS Wellington Academy Dubai Silicon Oasis and Sunmarke School having confirmed that they will offer both A Levels and the IB Diploma programme from September 2019.
What about staffing?
Little information has been released as yet about the faculty of the school, other than a statement that "Our members of academic staff are drawn from a variety of backgrounds but all have signiﬁcant and relevant experience in delivering either the IB Primary and Middle Years Programme and the English National Curriculum. We will have a strong monitoring and evaluation programme for staff and this, coupled with ongoing development training, will ensure that the curriculum is delivered to highest standard possible and that all our students achieve their maximum potential". However, in James Lynch, formerly Principal at Dubai International Academy, the school has appointed an experienced IB educator in whom parents are likely to feel confident.
What about the facilities?
Facilities at the school are good and functional rather than impressive. The section for Early Years is self-contained and allows a secure and safe environment for younger children. In the main building, classrooms will be light and airy and additional laboratories for Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, The Arts and Maths) are provided. A mobile IT lab and a separate IT laboratory are provided for Primary students, in addition to a Gaming Design and Coding lab. The school will also eventually have four libraries (KG, Primary, Middle School and Senior). The school Librarian is an IB trained teacher and able to offer support to the students, particularly as they progress through the upper grades.
Artistic students are also catered for, with a Fine Arts studio, soundproofed music and recording rooms, dance room and exhibition display area. Outdoor facilities include tennis courts, a football pitch, cricket nets and pitch and track markings for athletics. There will also be a 25m outdoor shaded pool, plus a training pool for the Kindergarten. And a soundproofed multipurpose hall will be available for indoor sport as well as offering a stage and flexible seating for 650.
Extra curricular activities (some 30 in number) will be offered two days each week from internal and external providers in activities such as sports, innovation, arts and mother tongue.
What about the fees?
One of the core components on which Ambassador International Academy is marketing itself is an offer of an "affordable IB & British education".
Ambassador International Academy has received KHDA approval for its first several years' fees, but has discounted significantly below the approved level. Fees in pre-KG are AED 28,400 (approved at AED 45,850), rising to AED 34,600 in Grade 1 and reaching AED 36,600 in Grade 4 (approved at AED 59,600 from Grades 1 to 4). The discounts will be amended to a reduced amount (and therefore higher fee payments) in the second and third years of founding families attending the school.
Fees in 2020-21 and 2021-22 will be respectively AED 31,000 and AED 34,200 in Pre-KG, rising to AED 37,900 and AED 41,500 for Grades 1 to 4. These fees are still significantly lower than the approved fees. WhichSchoolAdvisor.com understands that AIA has received KHDA approval for its fees for the first five years, so there will not be any sudden and significant jump for the fourth year and beyond. Fees for Grades 5 and 6 and for the Secondary School have not been revealed, so for families placing children in Grade 4 in September 2019, details are not yet be available of fees for the following years.
Even with fees discounted in the first years for Founding families, they are still considerably higher than those of the Ambassador School in Mankhool, which start at AED 20,695 in Grade 1, rising to AED 41,400 in Grade 12. As mentioned earlier in our review, this was inevitable, given the curricula being offered. Fees include English, Maths and Science textbooks - which suggests that other subject resources will be chargeable. There is also an AED 500 non-refundable registration fee.
It appears that AIA has benchmarked its fees against those of GEMS Wellington Academy DSO, which range from the Grade 1 equivalent of AED 45,380 to AED 82,511 in Grade 12. This school was rated Very Good by the KHDA in the 2018-19 inspections.
AIA is also offering significant discounts for siblings, starting at 10% for the second student in a family of two, and five percent for the second child in families of three children or more, with a discount of 15% for a third child in the same family, 20% for the fourth and 25% for the fifth. This offer is currently for the first academic year (2019-20) only.
If (and we think it's quite a big if), Ambassador International Academy can pull off similar quality and breadth of curriculum at this substantially lower, discounted price, the school is certain to be a welcome addition to the Dubai educational landscape.
We look forward to learning more about how the school intends to achieve this mixture of curricula, quality and fees as more information becomes available.
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