Amity International School is located not far from Deerfields Mall on the Abu Dhabi- Dubai highway. Set towards the coast, the school is located directly opposite an inlet to the main waterway and a highlight of the school are its boathouse and sailing activities, which are offered to both parents and children.
The story so far...
Set up by Amity Education Group, which operates a University in Dubai, a Not for Profit Education Foundation with 150,000 students worldwide, Amity International School (AIS) opened in September 2015. This was the Amity University Dubai's first venture (but certainly not the last) into pre-university education in the UAE. Although an Indian organisation, the ethos and curriculum of Amity International School, Abu Dhabi is very much a British one. A Dubai-based Indian curriculum school opened in 2018 in the centre of the city, together with a pre-school in the popular Emirates Hills area.
Located directly across from an inland water-way, AIS aims to integrate this into learning for students and as a community feature.
AIS states that its Mission is to provide "an engaging and challenging learning environment where students are encouraged to excel intellectually, academically and socially".
It achieves this by nurturing "our students’ natural desires to learn with a personalised educational programme, project-based learning and guided enquiry. These promote the development of independent thinking, critical analysis, emotional intelligence and essential communication skills".
The school's values are based on the fact that "Every community needs guiding pillars to be successful. We believe in inspiring excellence, encouraging togetherness, creating collaboration and celebrating diversity".
In line with its international focus, the largest single nationality grouping at Amity International School is Emirati, representing approximately 30% of students. UK passport holders represent 17%, followed by Indian (5%) and US (4%). At the time of the school's ADEK inspection in April 2018, the school hosted just under 1,000 students - the vast majority in the FS and Primary sections. These 920 students are taught by 72 teachers, together with some 40 teaching assistants. The teacher:student ratio was a low 1:11, aimed at ensuring that students receive individualised support to a high degree. Staff are clearly happy with their employment, with a very low turnover rate of 4% in 2017 - well below the UAE average of 20-22%. The school has doubled in size since its opening.
The Principal was a much-loved Primary School teacher at one of the most popular not-for-profit schools in Dubai 15 years ago and is therefore familiar with the UAE culture. She is actively involved in all aspects of the school - including running the after-school sewing club! The Vice Principal and Founding Head of Secondary, who joined AIS in 2017, was previously Deputy Headmaster and Vice Principal at Outstanding-rated Brighton College, Abu Dhabi. All teachers are native English speakers from around the world, qualified to teach the UK curriculum. Each of them aims to promote critical thinking and self-reflection in a caring and stimulating environment.
What about the curriculum?
The school states that its "education model is based on the National Curriculum of England and is aimed at developing inquisitive, knowledgeable young people. We provide a challenging and engaging environment that encourages students to excel intellectually, academically and socially, giving them everything they need to thrive in a rapidly changing world". The school will offer the IB Diploma Programme for senior students. Amity International has time to prepare: The school is currently open to Year 9 and will have its first group of students start their IGCSE programme in September 2019.
It is intended that the school will very much be a focus of activity for the community and the Boat House, with direct access to the water, is at the heart of the school. The curriculum is designed to engage and excite students, develop critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and cultivate an understanding of, and appreciation for, marine life and ecosystems.
The school offers a wide range of Extra-curricular activities including various competitive sports and fitness-based activities, music, drama, dance, the school production, a sports newspaper and business enterprise group, interactive IT and even Origami.
Amity International School is an inclusive school, supporting children with additional learning needs and also additional language teaching requirements. As such, SEN and EAL provision is offered. There is also a school counsellor to support families and children.
What about the facilities?
The state-of-the-art facilities are designed to provide a stimulating learning and social environment. These include spacious classrooms, a boat house, libraries, science labs, music and art rooms, digital media rooms, a drama room and black box theatre, indoor and outdoor play areas, a sports hall and an auditorium.
The school is set within a large rectangular campus, with the Foundation section set in a wing to the left of the area and the teaching block spread across the centre towards the main lobby area and administrative areas, which are in the wing to the right. A series of large concrete letters painted in the dark blue school colour spell out the name Amity at the centre of the plant-filled quadrangle in front of the buildings.
The main entrance lobby has both an imposing staircase to the left leading to the first floor, whilst on the right hand side is an escalator. The glass sides of the escalator are cleverly decorated with illustrations of the mechanical parts of the escalator to show how it works.
Classrooms are located to the left of the entrance leading towards the Foundation section and lead off large open corridors. All classrooms are bright and open, with plenty of outside access and natural light. Furnishings are also bright and cheerful, with boldly coloured seats and blue floors. Each classroom has the inevitable Promethium board, as well as large quantities of toys and resources suited to the age group. Specialist Arabic classrooms are incorporated among the form rooms. There is also a special PE Studio, which is used by the younger children. A large colourful dining hall allows children and staff to eat together.
The second floor includes laboratories, Music rooms and Acoustic practice rooms. Music is a particular focus of the school and excellent facilities have been provided, including two large fully resourced classrooms housing hand held percussion, tuned percussion, djembe drums, woodwind instruments, Yamaha digital piano, Yamaha upright piano, Drum Kit, Keyboards, Shure SM58 microphones, ukuleles, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, bass guitars and amplification. A large practice room with 24 Yamaha touch sensitive keyboards, three additional practice rooms with a beautiful Kawai upright piano, and a dedicated music technology Apple Mac room with individual computer and midi-controller workstations are also available. The main library (one of three) and a sound-proofed 600 seater auditorium are located adjacent to the sports hall, with stunning views over the waterways opposite.
Outside areas include play and wet areas, as well as a covered outside playground area. To the rear of this is the largest playing field in Abu Dhabi – a full-size football pitch surrounded by a 400m running track, basketball court and tennis courts, 4G astro turf playing fields, an Olympic-sized swimming pool (50m), Outdoor tennis/netball courts, and a Dance studio. Further sports facilities, which are located in the right-hand wing of the building (above the administration), include a Double-height Sports hall with full-size basketball pitch.
What the inspectors say
Amity International School clearly set down a marker on its intent to be a highly-rated school when it achieved a Good rating for its first inspection in 2016. It has followed this up with a second Good rating in 2018.
Highlights of the 2018 inspection report include the ratings across the six key performance standards with Students’ Achievement, and Teaching and Assessment rated Good; Students’ personal and social development and their innovation skills, Curriculum, and Leadership and Management rated Very Good; and the protection, care, guidance and support of students rated Outstanding. The inspection team noted particularly that "the inspirational principal and senior leaders have an aspirational vision for all students. Partnerships with parents are strong. Facilities are spacious and of a very high quality".
The strengths of the school were adjudged to be:
In common with many new schools, AIS' rapid growth has led to some inconsistency in teaching and assessment practices across the school, and Arabic remains something of a challenge in common with many international schools in the UAE.
AIS was found to need to focus on the following areas of improvement:
It is very clear that AIS has the potential to achieve a higher ADEK rating if it can continue to improve as it has clearly done over the two years between inspections. The potential for improvement and the school's ability to achieve it was found to be Very Good. The challenge for the leadership will be to continue to improve whilst the school - in terms of students and staff - is growing so quickly. But with four of the six key performance standards already rated Very Good or Outstanding, it would be a surprise for us at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, if we did not see an improved rating in 2020.
There is no doubt that Amity University has spared no expense in developing their school and has brought in a strong team of staff to run it. For families seeking a UK curriculum school with a strong international focus and population, Amity International School would seem to be a very good option.
Fees range from AED 43,300 at Nursery, rising to AED 53,600 at Year 9. Fees will rise to AED 59,300 for Years 10 to 13 on opening.
One very positive development at Amity International School is the introduction of scholarships. The Amity Scholarship and Bursary fund, launched in September 2017, is designed to help celebrate and promote achievement and ambition, but also helps students with limited financial means benefit from an AIS education. Scholarships include: Academic, Art, Drama, and Sport Scholarships for students in Years 7 to 10, and a Music Scholarship for students from Years 5–10.
Scholarships are awarded for achievement and potential either in a specific or a combination of fields. Awards are given on an entirely meritocratic basis. Although a student may not meet the criteria at one scholarship entry point, this will not exclude him/her from an application in a later year.
In September 2019, scholarships have been offered for students entering Year 7, 8, 9 and 10. Music scholarships might be offered to exceptional candidates in Year 5 and Year 6.
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