United Arab Emirates / Abu Dhabi / Mohammed Bin Zayed City / Belvedere British School

Belvedere British School Review

Belvedere British School is a UK National Curriculum School located Mohammed Bin Zayed City. It is linked to a long-standing school in Liverpool, UK, and also operates three nurseries in Abu Dhabi.
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3.4 out of 5 based on 79 reviews
At a glance
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Good
Availability 2019/20
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Availability 2020/21
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Annual fee average
AED 26,500
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
2012
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Ciaran Cunningham-Watson
Main teacher nationality
British
Main student nationality
A mix of nationalities
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Belvedere British School
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Good
Availability 2019/20
radio_button_unchecked No data
Availability 2020/21
radio_button_unchecked No data
Annual fee average
AED 26,500
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
2012
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Ciaran Cunningham-Watson
Main teacher nationality
British
Main student nationality
A mix of nationalities
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First Published:
Friday 18 November, 2016

Updated:
Thursday 8 August, 2019

Belvedere British School is a UK National Curriculum School located Mohammed Bin Zayed City. It is linked to a long-standing school in Liverpool, UK, and also operates three nurseries in Abu Dhabi.

The story so far...

Belvedere British School (BBS) is UK curriculum school which opened its doors in 2012 in Mohammed bin Zayed City.  The school is linked with Belvedere Preparatory School in Liverpool, UK, which has over 130 years’ of experience in education, and is owned by three Emirati investors. 

The school states that its aims include the development of "well-educated, well-rounded young men and women who will play a significant role in society. They will be good team members as well as leaders; above all, they will seek to be a positive influence wherever they find themselves". 

Asked what Belvedere British School offers that is different or better than any other UAE school, Principal Ciaran Cunningham-Watson tells WhichSchoolAdvisor.com

"Belvedere British School provides a quintessentially British educational experience, within Abu Dhabi. Teachers are sourced and trained in order to provide the best type of British education, blending proven and 21st century teaching and learning strategies for our students. Students of all ages enjoy learning within a strong school community, where effort and achievements are cultivated and celebrated. Within a school school setting, teachers know their students’ needs, personalities, and are able to motivate them to recognise and achieve their own true potential".

BBS currently enrols students from over 40 countries and offers classes from FS2 (4 years of age) to Year 13.  Some 780 students attend the school with its first cohort of Year 13 students due to complete their education in 2018-19.  The school is also associated with three nurseries, the Belvedere Nursery, and the Liverpool nurseries in Khalifa A and Mohammed bin Zayed City, all of which offer Foundation 1 for three year olds and assure access to the school in FS2.  

The largest nationality group at the school is Emirati (27%), followed by Egyptian (14%) and Pakistani students (9%), whilst Jordanian students make up 7%.  There is a slightly higher ratio of boys than girls (42:38) who are taught together in co-educational classes until Year 6, when class are separated by gender.  Around 25% of students are in the Early Years stage of the school, with a further 52% in the Primary School. The Secondary school makes up a further 20% of students (from Years 7 to 11) and a very small contingent of 3% (just over 20 students) is in the Sixth Form (Years 12 and 13) with the first cohort of Year 13 students due to graduate in this academic year.  FS2, and Years 1, 2 and 4 each have four classes, whilst Year 3 and Years 5 to 10 each have three classes. Year 11 has two classes, whilst the Sixth Form (Years 12 and 13) each have one class.

Approximately 2% of students have been identified with additional learning needs. Students of determination are supported through the school's SEND department which is staffed by the SENCO and a separate Inclusion teacher. Families pay additional fees for this support in terms of a contribution to salaries and resources.

Students are supported by 73 teachers and a number of teaching assistants, providing a teacher:student ratio of 1:11.  Primary school class sizes of approximately 25-30 are on the high side for a premium-priced school, but BBS is definitely priced more towards the mid-range, with class sizes to match. In FS2 and Year 1, average class sizes are 25, whilst in the remainder of the Primary school, they are between 28-30 students.  From Year 6, when children are separated by gender, class sizes and allocation vary basis on gender, whilst in Sixth Form, although there is only one class in each year group, students are allocated to much smaller subject classes, based on their course requirements.

Teachers are recruited from the UK, Ireland, South Africa and New Zealand.  Staff are comprised of "a good balance between youthful enthusiasm and professional experience" according to the school. All teachers are expected to have a professional teaching qualification, or be working towards one, with at least two years’ previous teaching experience.  The majority of teachers have experience teaching the British curriculum, in UK, Ireland or internationally.  Principal Kieran Cunningham-Watson joined the school in early 2018 and appears to have a rapid influence on the performance of the school.

At the time of the previous ADEK inspection in May 2017, the school had suffered from an extraordinary level of staff turnover (82%), meaning that eight out of ten staff had left in the previous year. In 2018, this had reduced to approximately 30% - still on the high side by UAE international school standards where the range is between 20-22%.  The latest ADEK inspection report for 2018-19 indicates 25% turnover - still slightly above the norm. Clearly, this is not a good sign for any school in terms of its stability, retention of quality of staff or management. 

However, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com understands from both parental feedback and other sources, that the change in leadership and staff over the past eighteen months has led a much happier and more productive school.  This is borne out by the news of the latest ADEK report to be issued in 2019, with the inspection having already taken place. Although not yet officially published, Belvedere British School has received a Good rating. Further details can be found here.

What about the curriculum?

BBS follows the English National Curriculum, offering IGCSE, AS and A Levels for students from years 10 to 13.  The school operates a selective admission policy (including an entrance exam) and all students are expected to have English knowledge in order to be able to access the curriculum from the outset.  There is a particular academic focus on English, Maths, the Sciences and Arabic.

In the Foundation stage, children follow IPC curriculum (an adaptation of the UK curriculum for international schools).  From Years 1 to 6, children follow the Key Stage 1-2 curricula, with core subjects of English, Maths, Science, Computing, History and Geography.  Children are streamed by ability from Year 3 onwards for English and Maths.  All children follow Arabic, Islamic and Social Studies taught by specialist teachers. They also participate in Art and PE lessons.

From Years 7-9 students follow the Key Stage 3 curriculum, with English, Maths, Science, History, Geography, French, Arabic, Design and Technology, Art and Design, ICT, Social Studies and PE as part of the core curriculum. 

The school offers IGCSE in Years 10 and 11, to be followed by A levels in Year 13. With the first cohort of students due to graduate in 2019, AS and A Level students have chosen from the core IGCSE subjects, together with Business Studies, Humanities options, Modern Foreign Language options and Creative Arts subjects - specific details are not available on the school's website and were not provided to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com when requested.   

Historically, students' achievement has been better in the Foundation and Primary sections (largely rated Good in 2017) than in the Secondary and Senior section. We hope that the school will publish exam results for both IGCSE and A Levels in due course.

The school states that it offers a broad range of Co-curricular activities including KenKen, Football, Basketball, Karate, Swimming, Cricket, Cooking, Science, ipad Club, Art, Chess, Sign Language, Glee Club, Netball, Spanish, Debating, Public Speaking, Sudoku, Photoshop Club, Canvas Painting, Yoga, Arabic Handwriting, and Charity Club.  Some activities are chargeable including Karate, Football, Basketball (AED 175), Swimming club (AED 500  [once a week] and AED 1,000 [twice weekly]), Cooking club (AED 100) and Canvas Painting club (AED 50). 

BBS is planning its first overseas excursion for the 2019-20 academic year.

What about the facilities?

BBS says that there are limited on site facilities, but the school makes best use of existing provision and utilises externally available resources and providers.  Facilities at the school include an ICT suite, a multi-purpose hall, a music room, a large art and design studio, a library, and fully equipped science laboratories. 

What the inspectors say

BBS is accredited with British Schools of the Middle East (BSME) and British Schools Overseas (BSO).  BSO conducts inspection every two years for British schools overseas who wish to be visited by their team to ensure that they are meeting UK requirements.  The last BSO report from 2014 finds the school to be "in compliance with all requirements for British schools overseas" and states that the school provides a quality of education that meets the needs of students.  We would like to see further BSO inspections as a means of determining progress against BSO standards (and UK requirements).

The most recent ADEK inspection took place in term 2, 2019. Although not officially published on the ADEK website, the school has provided an update to its community of the main comments and ratings. 

Key finding of the inspection team were:

The overall rating for Belvedere British School is Good - up from Acceptable in 2017 and at the level expected for all schools in Abu Dhabi.

The six key performance standards were rated individually - Student achievement was rated Good; Students’ personal and social development and their innovation skills was rated Very Good; Teaching and assessment was found to be Good: Curriculum was rated Good: The protection, care, guidance and support of students was found to be Very Good; and the Leadership and management of the school was rated Very Good.

This is an impressive level of performance for the team at BBS to have achieved in the space of two years.  Not only have the key indicators for Student achievement, Teaching and Assessment and Curriculum all been rated Good - the first measure is so dependent on the second and third that they are invariably rated the same - but the achievement of a Very Good rating for Students' personal and social development and their innovation skills, together with the protection, care, guidance and support of students, shows that the interpersonal and support aspects of the school are also working well. 

Most impressive, however, is the rating for Leadership and Management as Very Good.  The report states that "The school’s successful implementation of the recommendations of the previous report, combined with the appointment of new senior leaders, indicates that the school’s capacity to improve further is very good".  This suggests that the school has the potential to achieve this overall rating and is a very positive sign for future improvement. 

The inspection team commented that "Very strong leadership has improved morale and behaviour, and raised achievement to good in almost all subjects since the previous inspection. Teachers have good subject knowledge, and plan engaging lessons that meet the needs of most students. Accurate self-evaluation informs detailed school development plans that are monitored closely".  

The ADEK inspection team identified the following strengths of Belvedere British School:

  • The vision and direction of the principal, supported by the governing body, in developing an open and inclusive learning community aligned with UAE’s values and aspirations;
  • The improved ethos and morale throughout the school;
  • Improved achievement in Arabic, English and mathematics across all phases, and science in the high school;
  • The effective care guidance and support given to students, leading to improved behaviour and attitudes to learning;
  • Teachers’ interactions and good relations with students.

Key areas for improvement were noted to be to:

  • Improve achievement in Islamic education throughout the school by: improving the quality of teaching through raised expectations of what students can achieve; developing teachers’ use of open-ended questioning to develop critical thinking; [and] making better use of technology to support learning.
  • Ensure that existing systems for assessing students’ achievement consistently lead to increased levels of challenge for all students, including the Arabic-medium subjects by embedding the new assessment procedures firmly into practice across the school; ensuring all lessons offer enough challenge for more-able students; teachers’ consistently using assessment data to plan lessons that closely match students’ abilities; [and] adapting the curriculum to develop the use of technology in the Arabic-medium subjects.
  • Improve the overall attendance and punctuality of all students by refining current systems to educate parents of the importance of regular attendance; rigorously imposing current sanctions for students who are absent regularly; [and] further developing the system of rewards and praise for students who do attend regularly.
  • Continue to increase parents and students’ awareness and understanding of the importance of healthy eating by defining clearly the foods that are not allowed to be brought from home, and ensuring parents are aware of the rules.

Commenting on the inspection, Principal Ciaran Cunningham-Watson notes that "We are an improving school, a developing school, a school where we are all learning and progressing together. These are interesting times and the future is ever changing in front of us. As we continue to grow and evolve together as a school community, we have a lot to think about and put into action"

And when summarising what BBS offers, Mr. Cunningham- Watson reiterates

"Strong school leadership and native English teachers throughout primary and secondary school. Links between Primary and Secondary to ensure continued progression. Teachers who genuinely care about their students, working an effective pastoral system. Long serving members of staff with families of their own at the school that give the school a strong community feel".

Belvedere British School has evidently come a long way on its road to improvement since the previous inspection.  The school, its leadership, staff, students and their families should be congratulated for the progress made.  We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com look forward to learning more about their journey, which we expect to be a positive one.   

However, academically, it seems that there is still work to be done.  IGCSE results for the small number of students who took them were generally weak.  This is certain to be a focus on development for the school.  For families seeking a relatively-modestly priced school, without the bells and whistles perhaps, but with the right staff and resources, we would certainly suggest BBS for your short-list.

If you are a parent, teacher or student at BBS and would like to share your experiences, please take part in our survey so that other potential members of the BBS community can find out more.

Fees for Belvedere British School are mid-range by Abu Dhabi standards starting at AED 23,600 for FS2 and rising to AED 30,700 for Year 13. 

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