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 170,000 students worldwide, Amity International School Abu Dhabi (AIS) opened in September 2015. This was Amity Education's first venture (but certainly not the last) into pre-university education in the UAE.
The school is accredited by British Schools in the Middle East, and by examination boards Pearson, Oxford International and Cambridge International. In addition, it is accredited by Duke of Edinburgh International Awards and - rather less usually - by the British Royal Yachting Association. The latter is as a result of the school's direct access to an inland water-way with sailing facilities, which AIS has integrated into learning for students. It is intended that the school is 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.
AIS' last ADEK inspection rated the school Very Good - the second highest rating - after two previous inspections when it had been rated Good. You can read further details here.
Clearly, not only the ADEK inspection team are satisfied with progress at the school.
Recent comments from parents in 2023 include: "Strengths: Amity does a good job with catering to the individual needs of their students. They have plenty of play-to-learn experiences for the younger grades, which instills a love of learning. I also really like their phonics program for teaching kids to read."
"State of the Art Facilities, Extra-curricular activities, CCA's, Principal is an asset."
"Strengths: Their admin team, the branding, the curriculum. The extra curricular activities: so many!"
"Very accommodating teachers and staff. Not only brilliant in academics but also teach children how to socialise. In short, Amity is building confident, kind, responsible, and independent human beings. Keep it up, Amity!"
"Fantastic inclusion for children with additional needs."
The school's Vision statement informs readers that:
"Amity International School aims to serve all its pupils by preparing a diverse range of courses, programmes, resources and facilities that serve pupils’ individual talents and interests, and help them secure the best chance of success and happiness in both their professional and personal lives."
To this end, AIS sets out to instil the following character attributes in all its pupils:
In line with its international focus, the largest single nationality grouping at Amity International School is British, followed by South Korean, South African and Emirati (the latter representing just over 25% of the student community). The school proudly boasts of the 86 different nationalities represented among its students.
In 2023, the school currently educates just over 1,500 students - the majority of students are in the FS and Primary sections with a little over 1,100, whilst the Secondary section now has close to 350 students and the Sixth Form (Years 12 and 13) supports a cohort of 41 students.
Class sizes are a maximum of a low 20 in Nursery (FS1), rising to 24 in Reception (FS2) and Year 1 with a maximum of 26 in Years 2 to 6. There are 6 classes in Nursery, and Years 3 to 5, seven in Years 1 and 2, and five classes in Year 6. In the Secondary and Sixth Form sections, students are organised into Tutor Groups with subject classes dependent on subject choices as they progress through the school.
Perhaps more importantly than the class sizes, teacher/assistant:student ratios are very much on the low side, with an average 7.8 staff members for each student. The teacher:student ratio is a similarly low 1:12. Low ratios of this type ensure a personal approach to teaching and student support.
Mr. Adrian Frost took over the position of Principal in 2018, moving up to the leadership position from his previous role as Founding Head of Secondary and Vice Principal at AIS. Before joining Amity he was Deputy Head Master and Vice Principal of Brighton College, Abu Dhabi for three years. In the UK, he held management positions at some of the world’s leading academic and celebrated schools, including St Paul’s Girls School, London, Magdalen College School, Oxford and Brighton College, UK. Mr Frost is a graduate of Oxford University.
Students are supported by approximately 100 teachers from a number of different nationalities, with the vast majority being native English speakers qualified to teach the UK curriculum. Whilst the largest proportion are from the UK, other nationalities include Irish, American, Canadian, Australian and South African. Arabic and French language teachers are native speakers from Egypt and France respectively. Each teacher aims to promote critical thinking and self-reflection in a caring and stimulating environment.
What about the curriculum?
The curriculum is based on the National Curriculum for England.
AIS says "Encouraging creativity, innovative thinking, and the capacity to challenge the existing paradigm are core components of our education provision and ethos. Our educational philosophy is centered around fostering a growth mindset and embedding a positive can-do attitude that ensures our children develop a long-lasting love of learning.
Building on their curiosity, we encourage pupils to evaluate and question facts, form opinions and persevere in learning.Our Academic curriculum not only furnishes pupils with core knowledge and understanding required for success in external examinations but also the skills and habits of mind that will allow them to flourish in the rapidly changing world that lies beyond Amity.
We inspire pupils to explore different interests and encourage an interdisciplinary approach. They experiment with entrepreneurial and community-minded ideas, and feel safe taking risks. Our pupils are adaptable in their thinking, and they reframe setbacks as a learning opportunity. By celebrating their perseverance, we build resilient, confident, creative problem-solvers with a growth mindset."
Students in the Nursery and Reception classes follow the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum, whilst those in Primary and Secondary section to Year 9 follow the National Curriculum.
There is an increasing focus on a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) approach. In addition to mandatory Arabic, students are also offered French, German and Spanish as additional languages.
Students in Years 10 and 11 follow a range of core subjects and options leading to their IGCSE examinations at the end of the two year period, with students enjoying a choice of 27 IGCSE courses. The school is fully open to Year 13, with its first cohort of IGCSE students having completed their studies in 2021.
Students in Sixth Form are offered three pathways - either A Levels, BTEC or a mixture of the two. In addition to 16 A Level courses, AIS also offers the more vocationally focused three BTEC Level 3 courses, in Sport, ICT and Applied Science. Unusually, students are given the option to combine a BTEC qualification with two A Levels. The first cohort of Sixth Form students will complete their A Level and/or BTEC qualifications in June 2023. Sixth Form students are also encouraged to undertake the Extended Project Qualification (an individual project which the student chooses) which is highly regarded by universities in the UK and elsewhere as evidence of independent research and project management skills. They are also provided with the opportunity to participate in an mini-MBA project at associated Amity University in Dubai.
AIS offers a wide range of extra-curricular activities including various competitive sports and fitness-based activities, music, drama, dance, school productions, a sports newspaper and business enterprise group, and interactive IT. Through sport, students develop cooperation and leadership skills, resilience and positivity. Academic enrichment takes place in the form of societies, trips and visits to the associated Amity University in Dubai.
It is intended that the school 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 provision of this unique resource is designed to enhance the curriculum, engaging and exciting students, developing critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and cultivating an understanding of, and appreciation for, marine life and ecosystems.
Within the curriculum and co-curriculum, students have access to numerous activities that improve their ability to assess situations, make informed and ethical decisions, and engage effectively with others. Whether this be through participating in the school council, being a peer mentor, captain of a team, or project manager of their latest enterprise project, as student leaders learn within a safe environment the value of different leadership styles, how to engage effectively with others and how to manage the dynamics of a team.
All activities are supported by a comprehensive set of pastoral care systems and procedures, many of which are student-led and include: Pupil Council, House Captains, Eco-Ambassadors, Playground Buddies and others. Teachers monitor all aspects of children’s development and are quick to identify any needs and put support in place where required.
Amity International School is an inclusive school, supporting children with additional learning needs and also additional language teaching requirements. As such, SEN and ELL provision is offered. There is also a school counsellor to support families and children.
Over 100 students across the school have been designated in need of additional support - either as a result of SEN requirements, English Language Learning needs or as students with Gifts and Talents. Support may take place in class, in the Hive Sensory rooms, Sensory circuits or through the adoption of electronic devices as a normal way of working.
Should a student require a dedicated Learning Support Assistant (LSA), AIS will assist with the recruitment process to ensure that the assistant is a suitable fit for the student. Parents recruit the LSA, and pay for his/her services directly. On average, this is approximately AED 3,000 per month.
In common with all UAE schools, students at AIS participate in global bench-marking tests, including PISA and TIMMS. This allows the school to track progress over time against other UAE and international schools.
AIS has said that it publishes its students examination results and WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has requested these for the June 2022 IGCSE examinations. We will update the review upon receipt.
Whilst examinations are not and should not be the sole measure of an excellent education, they are an important decision making factor and we always encourage schools to share this data with parents.
Students receive one-to-one counselling support together with a specially developed programme - The Amity Horizons programme - which, together with IGCSE and A Levels academic qualifications, are designed to enable students to build a strong individual profile, helping them to gain access to top Universities around the world, and the best possible opportunities in the next stage of their education and their future careers.
Much time and energy has been invested in ensuring that this programme supports the full development of Sixth Form students in order that they have the very best preparation for success in their life beyond Amity International School.
The Amity Horizons Programme aims to ensure that students are "Prepared for a world where jobs and challenges are constantly evolving; Creative thinkers; Lifelong learners; Adaptable; Successful and happy; All-rounded, Globally minded, and Prepared for future leadership".
Students from the school who will complete their A Level studies in 2023 have applied to universities in the UK, Canada, Switzerland and the UAE.
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 Design and Technology Suite, an Olympic pool and learners pool, a boat house, 3 libraries, an Arabic library, 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 a 350 seat 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. 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 Gym, 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.
Arts and Design and Technology resources have been improved through the provision of a state of the art Art Auditorium and a Design and Technology Centre. Sixth Form students benefit from a purpose-built study centre and have access throughout the day to the Aloft Cafe which they share with teaching staff.
Outside areas include play and wet areas, as well as a covered outside playground area with play areas having recently been upgraded. A further recent development has been the creation of a hydroponics facility. The school has one of the largest playing fields in Abu Dhabi – a full-size football pitch surrounded by a 500m running track, basketball court and tennis courts, 4G astro turf playing fields, an Olympic-sized swimming pool (50m) and a learner pool, Outdoor tennis/netball courts, and a Dance studio with spring flooring. 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.
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. At the time of that inspection, the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com team wrote "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."
We are very happy to be proven right! Amity International School received a Very Good rating in the 2021-22 inspection round (following a year's delay to the scheduled inspection of 2020-21 due to the Covid 19 pandemic).
The new inspection report is a mammoth document, being a combination of the previous school 'self-evaluation form' (SEF) which was completed by the school and submitted pre-inspection to ADEK, and the inspection report which reflects the inspectors' findings. At 107 pages in length, we wonder just how many parents will read the full document,and are therefore delighted to be able to summarise the highlights here.
Whilst the change in format of the inspection report makes it less straightforward for parents to analyse in our opinion, it provides a more detailed and helpful format for the school leadership.
Historically, schools were rated across each of the six key performance standards of Students’ Achievement, Students’ personal and social development and their innovation skills, Teaching and Assessment, Curriculum, Protection, care, guidance and support of students, and Leadership and Management, and provided with an overall rating.
The new report does not provide an individual rating for each key performance standard, instead measuring at a more detailed level, which results in the attribution of a percentage for each standard based on the ratings of Outstanding, Very Good, Good, Acceptable, Weak and Very Weak. Furthermore, not all key performance standards were rated.
The outcome for Amity International School was an overall rating of Very Good, with 18% of all measures receiving an Outstanding rating, and 53% of measures receiving a Very Good rating. 29% of measures (those for Students’ personal and social development and their innovation skills and the Curriculum) did not receive a rating.
However, based on our assessment of the detailed breakdown across the measures, Students' Achievement, Teaching and Assessment and Leadership and Management achieved a Very Good rating, whilst the Protection, care, guidance and support of students was rated Outstanding.
The strengths of the school were identified as follows:
In terms of areas for improvement, AIS encouraged to focus on the following areas:
1. Improve further students’ attainment and progress across the school, particularly in the Arabic medium subjects by:
2. Improve progress and attainment in mathematics by:
3. Improve progress and attainment in science by:
4. Improve teaching, learning and the use of assessment data, particularly in the Arabic medium subjects by:
5. Strengthen the role of the leadership, particularly of the middle leaders of Arabic by:
6. Strengthen the Governors' role in the school by:
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 period since the last inspection, despite the impact of Covid and the risk, in managing the challenges of the pandemic, that progress on improvement might have slowed. We can only expect to see further progress on the path to improvement in the next two years.
If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.
Parent feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com's Parent Survey is largely positive with a total of 85 parents giving the school an overall rating of 3.9/5 or a 78% positivity rating. We would like to see more parent feedback, given the size of the school, to obtain a fully representative view.
Overall 60% of parents who responded to the survey believe that their children enjoy going to school a tremendous amount and have a tremendous sense of belonging. Despite their children's evident happiness at AIS, some 27% of parents had considered moving their child to another school (but have not done so). This is in line with UAE averages.
Almost 80% of parents are fully satisfied with the academic performance of the school, whilst 17% are partially satisfied. The level of satisfaction is perhaps reflected in the fact that 30% of parents feel that they need to provide additional tuition for their children. Again, these figures are completely in line with UAE averages.
Almost 3/4 of parents are either Quite Confident (36%) or Extremely Confident (37%) that the school can meet the specific learning needs of their child. Parents are also positive about the inclusiveness and quality of provision at AIS in regard to sports, fine arts and performing arts activities. The school leadership's communication and feedback and disciplinary policies and their implementation are also highly regarded.
If one statistic speaks for parents' views of the school, it is that 82% would unreservedly recommend Amity International School to other parents.
As is so often the case, if there is one area about which parents tend to be less positive and which invariably impacts on the overall rating for the school, it is the thorny issue of school fees. Whilst 51% of parents agree that fees represent value for money (around the average for UAE schools), a further 32% partially agree with this statement, and 17% - almost one in six - completely disagree. This compares with a UAE average of 12%.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at Amity International School Abu Dhabi, please share your opinions and experience with other potential members of your community and complete our Survey.
We asked the team at AIS to tell what differentiated their school from others in Abu Dhabi.
They told us: "Our expectation is that students are physically, creatively as well as academically ambitious, with a truly aspirational focus on all-round achievement. Amity seeks to continually build on its success through the innovation and expansion of academic and co-curricular provisions. However, we remain true to our founding values; the celebration of diversity, the inspiration of excellence, the benefits of collaboration and the importance of togetherness.
There is no doubt that Amity Education has spared no expense in developing (and continuing to develop) their school, and has brought in a strong team of staff to run it. The curriculum is increasingly innovative and focused on the future demands for students's skills for employment. 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 61,010 at Years 10- 13.
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 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.
Amity International School Abu Dhabi is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:
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