The Australian School of Abu Dhabi is located in one of the newer areas of Abu Dhabi - Khalifa City B - close to Abu Dhabi airport. This is a largely Emirati community, and the majority of students naturally come from the local population. The school follows the IB curriculum, and is one of the cheapest IB schools in the UAE. Unfortunately, for it to be considered good value, it would also need to step up its delivery.
The Australian School of Abu Dhabi (ASAD) opened in 2005, offering KG‐Grade 3 in temporary accommodation. In 2007, the school moved to a permanent building at Khalifa City B and now offers education up to Grade 12. It is is one of 4 member schools of the Australian International Academy; the other three are located in Australia. The school is an authorised International Baccalaureate World school and offers the three IB Programmes - PYP for Elementary, MYP for Middle School students and the IB Diploma programme for Grades 11 and 12.
The Australian School of Abu Dhabi is one of only two full IB curriculum schools in Abu Dhabi, together with ADEK Outstanding-rated Raha International School. Aldar Academies' Al Bateen is also in the process of changing from UK curriculum to IB, offering the PYP and DP programmes currently. There are a number of other Abu Dhabi schools that offer the IB Diploma programme for the final two years of study.
The school has recently launched a new (and not entirely functioning) website on which it provides more details of its aims and aspirations.
The school's Vision is "To have graduates who are well prepared and self-motivated to advance their country and to participate effectively as World citizens with Universal Values."
It also has a list of aspirations specific to the general, spiritual and moral, social, and academic development of students, together with academic and cultural, and curriculum aims.
While the school is Australian in name, in terms of student body it is distinctly Emirati. Two-thirds of students come from the local Emirati community, with a further 11% of students originating from Egypt, 3% from Jordan and the remaining 20% a mix of 25 nationalities - including some Australians.
Students are supported by a team of 88 teachers and a further 5 teaching assistants. The staff to student ratio is 1:18 in the KG section and 1:12 in the other phases of the school. Turnover rate, at 12%, is well below the UAE average of 20-22% in international schools.
The most recent ADEK inspection report from 2018-19 notes that "Governors hold leaders accountable, and have had a positive impact on improvements since the last inspection. This has been limited by frequent changes in senior leadership."
The current Principal joined the school at the end of January 2019, shortly after the most recent ADEK inspection in the same month.
Subjects offered by the school include Arabic (including at DP and in line with the Ministry of Education syllabus through the entire school), Islamic and Social Studies and Moral Education, English, Mathematics, Science (Biology and Chemistry at DP level), Individuals and Societies (Liberal Arts/Humanities which include History and Business Management at the DP level), Creative Arts (including Drama, Music and Visual arts), ICT and Design Technology.
Apart from the Islamic Studies, Social Studies and Arabic subjects for local students all other subjects are taught in English.
Arabic Language begins at the KG level and Islamic Studies begin in Year 1. The number of lessons per week varies slightly from KG classes to Secondary levels. Other modern languages, including French and advanced Arabic are offered as electives in the Secondary school, according to the Ministry of Education requirements.
No information is provided about this aspect of the school's programme. However, the most recent inspection report (although now two years' old), notes that "the identification of SEN students and challenge for G&T students is not yet fully established and is a developing area of the school’s work." In fact, at the time of the last inspection, no students had been identified in either category.
To be fair, the inspectors commented "the school currently has no formally identified SEN students because parents concerned have not agreed with the process for their children. However, the school has taken the initiative to identify lower achieving students to establish an EAL (English Additional Language) programme of support for individual and groups of students. The SEN department supports the programme and all students have an Individual Education Plan. Students’ progress is monitored and reported during regular meetings with parents.
G&T (Gifted and Talented) students are identified according to ability. However, the planned activities in lessons do not challenge and extend students’ learning effectively enough."
Detailed information is not provided by the school, but we understand that the following facilities are provided: Science laboratories, a library, Art room, music room, auditorium, drama room, talent room, cafeteria, cricket pitch, school gymnasium and swimming pool.
The school particularly focuses its attention on the non-academic facilities including the Cafeteria, where the school promotes healthy eating and provides breakfast and lunch for students. This service is an optional alternative to bringing food from home. The student Meal Programme is available to all students from Kg1 to Year 12.
The auditorium is used in promoting the aims of education and many other activities. The auditorium seats 620 people and can support a variety of activities such as assemblies, presentations, large meetings, orchestral and choir productions, theatre productions and conferences. The auditorium has a control room for balancing lights and sound.
Sports facilities include a soccer field which is used for practice and competitions, and a gymnasium which is fully air conditioned and accessed by all students. Primary students are involved in a wide range of activities, games, dance, basic tumbling skills, movement, and physical activity. At senior levels, students, under supervision, use bench press machines and weights.
Additionally, there is an indoor, heated 27-metre swimming pool. The pool depth is 250 cm. To complement the main pool, a smaller training pool situated at one end has a depth of 65 cm for use with the youngest students or those students just learning to swim.
Somewhat disappointingly, ASAD does not publish any information in relation to the academic successes of its students.
The most recent inspection report found that Student Achievement at IB for English and Mathematics was Acceptable, whilst it was Good for Science. However, this does not enable parents to quantify the results which must be a concern for those potentially considering university destinations outside the UAE.
The IB programme has a reputation of being tough academically, and in its 15+ years of operation, ASAD has yet to get to the point of being able to match the best IB schools in the UAE.
According to ADEK report from 2016-17, "IB external data for all subjects for Grade 12 shows acceptable attainment, with most students achieving the IB diploma qualification". It would appear that there has been little forward progress in the intervening two years between the reports.
Rated Acceptable in the 2018-19 ADEK Inspection round for the second time, the Australian School of Abu Dhabi, has now made the grade in terms of providing an adequate level of education for two inspections in a row, that meets the minimum requirements of the Abu Dhabi schools regulator with all areas of weakness having be overcome.
The overall comments from the inspection team state "Achievement is acceptable overall. The improved behaviour of boys in the middle phase has resulted in improved achievement which is now acceptable overall in the middle phase. Progress is now acceptable overall.
Teaching now enables students to collaborate and work in groups but assessment is not used effectively to plan differentiated activities for students of different abilities.
Leaders provide the strategic direction for the school and have addressed most of the recommendations of the previous inspection.
Based on the improving standards and elimination of weak performance across all subjects and phases, the school has acceptable capacity to improve further."
In terms of the school's strengths, the report found these to be:
In terms of areas for improvement, these were somewhat longer and more detailed than the strengths of the school:
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.
It seems that the Australian School of Abu Dhabi has a range of challenges on its hands if it is to make the improvement beyond Acceptable that it assuredly would wish to do. Much of this will require the support not only of staff, but of parents and students, although it is evident that progress has been made in the past three years.
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The inspection team had previously commented that "the views of parents are generally considered when shaping school policies. Their involvement in the work of the school is acceptable, but not yet strong enough to enforce punctuality. Reporting is regular and includes information about students’ performance. The school has adequate links with the local community."
In the latest report, inspectors found that "parents now feel that they are informed about their child’s progress and communication by the school has improved." In addition, "the school’s partnerships with parents and the community are good overall. Parents are informed of their child’s learning through reports and termly meetings and informally through emails. The parents’ council provides support in school especially relating to students’ personal development. Links are well established with partner schools, as well as several local organizations such as the police and fire service."
Unfortunately, with little concrete information provided by the school and a necessary reliance on inspection reports which are now somewhat outdated, it is difficult to provide an independent view of the Australian School of Abu Dhabi.
Yes, improvements have taken place and the school has achieved the Acceptable rating. However, this is a very long way from the Outstanding rating of Raha International School or the Very Good rating of Al Bateen Academy - both IB continuum schools in Abu Dhabi both offering high standards to Emirati students and and those of other nationalities.
Without question, one of the challenges that the school faces is its fee levels, and its ability as a result, to invest in the highly qualified (and in high demand) teachers who ordinarily work in IB curriculum schools and who are absolutely key to the development and delivery of the curriculum.
Whilst fee levels remain AED 15,000-20,000 per year lower than its competitor IB schools, we cannot see how ASAD can hope to achieve their standards.
Fees at the Australian School of Abu Dhabi range from AED 14,975 to AED 35,534 - mid range for the emirate. The school is however, one of the cheapest IB school in the whole of UAE, although its delivery, if measured by successful outcomes at the Diploma, is not yet anywhere near where it should be.
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