Brighton College Abu Dhabi (also known as BCAD) was a high profile entrant into Abu Dhabi when the school opened in 2011. It is currently a FS- Year 13 school located on Abu Dhabi Island in the Bloom Gardens area. The school currently caters to approximately 1550 students.
Update - Brighton College Abu Dhabi has achieved ADEK's highest rating of Outstanding across all six key performance areas in the 2018-19 inspection round. This brings it into line with its sister school, Brighton College Al Ain, which has twice achieved the highest rating in 2015-16 and 2017-18.
This review will be updated fully once the ADEK report is available on their website.
The story so far...
Established in 2011, and associated with a long-established British public boarding school - Brighton College UK), Brighton College Abu Dhabi is clearly a "British" School through-and-through, but with over 60 nationalities represented in the student body, British students are in the minority - although still the single largest block of students accounting for over 35% of those enrolled.
Emirati students make up a significant minority of the student body at 15%, followed by Egyptian and Jordanian students in single figures of 4 and 3% respectively. 65 students have been identified as having Special Educational Needs (SEN) requirements. A significant number of students are identified as Gifted & Talented - approximately 450 students.
The majority of teachers are from the UK or other native English speaking countries.
Facilities at the school are first class, with the Performing Arts and Arts section being particularly impressive, together with a very wide range of sports facilities which take up a significant part of the school site.
To find out more about facilities and our impressions of the school, read our Experience visit report here.
What about the curriculum?
The school follows a modified English curriculum, with the Early Years Foundation Stage guidelines followed at FS levels (termed Pre-Prep by the College to reflect its British public school origins).
The Prep School is for children aged between 7 and 13 (Years 3 to 8). Interestingly the focus of the prep school is on 11+ and 13+ Common Entrance syllabuses, which are devised and monitored by the Independent School Examinations Board (ISEB). That makes some sense. 11+ and 13+ exams are the gateways to the best independent schools in the United Kingdom, and some academically selective UK schools (Henrietta Barnett's for example) use similar style exams. Given the movement of the school's target audience between the two countries, that could be a distinct advantage for pupils, and the school itself. All students sit the Common Entrance exams, but only those genuinely interested in entry to a UK school have their exam papers submitted. The remainder are used by the school for internal assessment.
In Years 7 and 8, all pupils study a "cross-curricular and innovative programme" including history, geography, culture and ethics of Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates entitled The Story of Our Land. Pupils at the senior school study Arabic, Islamic Studies, English, Mathematics, Science (taught as three separate sciences), History, Geography, French, Spanish, Mandarin (yes Mandarin - its UK sister school was the first in the country to make it a core subject), Latin or Literacy, Physical Education, ICT, Art, Music, Drama and Design & Technology. In addition, all pupils participate in Games (sport for non-public school people), and follow a course in Personal, Social and Health Education, delivered as a series of workshops.
Upon entering the Senior School of BCAD, pupils join either a boys' or girls' house where their welfare is overseen by a Housemaster or Housemistress. Tutors are allocated to each year group to help pupils plan and organise their work, and to oversee their academic progress. During the year, an information evening for parents and pupils is held to assist in the choice of IGCSE/GCSE courses, which begin in Year 10. Heads of Departments review internal examination results and standardised tests to provide information about the suitability of pupils for particular courses and subjects.
The school includes comprehensive support for non-native English speakers as well as a number of learning support programmes.
The school has a number of sports on offer as well as extra-curricular activities, some expected - ballet, gymnastic, kayaking, equestrian, wakeboarding, some a little more eccentric - origami anyone?
What about academic achievement?
Pupils enter the Senior School of Brighton College Abu Dhabi in Year 9, at the age of 13. The college took on its first cohort of Year 9 pupils in 2011-12, taking the IGCSE exams in 2015/16 for the first time.
The school did very well - in fact the school claims "the best GCSE results in the emirate in in 2016." We can not verify that as not all schools release their results, however Brighton's 53 pupils sat 537 GCSEs between them,, achieving strong results with 64% of grades A*-A, and 97% of grades A*-C. For 2017, the school scored 63% A* to A grades this year, showing a drop of one percentile point from the school's 2016's result.
In 2016, Brighton released the first batch of A Level results at the school and they were good. 95% of the cohort achieved an A* to C grade while 72% scored between A* and B. For 2017, the school recorded a highly impressive 43 percent A* to A grades and 70.5 percent A* to B grades in 2017, making it the leader, currently, in Abu Dhabi for A' Level attainment.
Even prior to the results, many of its Sixth Form pupils have already had a number of acceptances to prestigious universities in the UK, "with an impressive 70% of UK bound Year 13 pupils holding at least one offer from a top tier Russell Group university and over 25% holding offers from UCL, Imperial or Cambridge University".
The school also published its 2017 GCSE results with 40% of GCSE grades at A* and 63% A*/A. While the new, numerical Mathematics and English grades have been factored in to the overall results, no fewer than 15 grade 9's were achieved, which given how few of these were to be awarded, is a tremendous achievement. Grade 9 is an even more prestigious than the A* and represents the very highest academic distinction at this level.
In 2018, 77 students were entered for GCSE and 29% of entries achieved Grade 9 (A**), 47% of entries were graded A* (9–8) 71% of entries were graded A* - A (9–7), 90% of entries were graded A* - B (9-5), whilst 96% % of entries were graded A* - C (9–4). The overall pass rate was 99%.
A Level achievement was equally impressive, with 69 students entering the exams. All passed, with that passed 69, with14% of entries graded A*, 42% of entries graded A* - A, and 95% of entries graded A* - C. Highest grades achieved 2017-18 by one student were 8A* - although the student in question took the examinations over a two year period.
In January 2019, the College announced that Amy Willetts, who graduated from Brighton College Abu Dhabi in June 2018, had been awarded the highest A Level grade in the world for Geography. Amy is studying Medicine at Cardiff University. And in March 2019, Brighton College Abu Dhabi announced that several students had achieved the highest GCSE and UK Maths Test results worldwide. The school saw 9 pupils achieve the highest GCSE grades worldwide (one for Mathematics, five for Italian (students who were clearly native speakers), two for Arabic and one for English. Six students received a Gold certificate for the UK Maths Test which puts them in the top 10% of all pupils who took part across the world.
The success of UK university applicants has been reflected in its international applications as well: Pupils have received unconditional offers to study at Utrecht, Purdue, Colorado Boulder and Florida Institute of Technology.
What the inspectors say
Brighton College Abu Dhabi was again rated Very Good by ADEK based on an inspection in November 2016; the same rating as it achieved in September 2014. Only 3 schools are currently rated Outstanding. It is clear that Brighton College had high hopes that it would join this elite group, particularly since its newer sister school in Al Ain, was able to achieve this goal.
Feedback is highly positive about progress made by the school so far. Students seem particularly happy at the school. The school is doing well in inspection reports. Its ADEK report we have noted; the school also subjected itself to an external review by the Independent Schools Inspectorate. It found attainment at Foundation Stage level excellent, and good elsewhere in the school.
Teaching is said to be good, and in some cases excellent. The latest ADEK inspection report praised the quality of students’ progress and attainment, particularly in English, mathematics and science, and in spoken English at FS. The school’s focus on promoting and celebrating Islamic values and UAE culture and traditions in all aspects of school life, and students’ positive attitudes to learning, behaviour and relationships were also highlighted.
Further praise was given in recognition of the school’s vibrant, diverse and extensive range of co-curriculum opportunities enjoyed by all age groups and the school’s provision of an attractive, spacious and well-resourced campus that provides a safe and welcoming learning environment and supports students’ learning. The strong commitment of the headmaster and his senior and middle leaders to continuous school improvement and innovation were also mentioned.
With so much positive feedback, it appears that the school's inability to secure the much sought-after Outstanding rating was in relation to the provision of Arabic - the sole area of improvement identified by the inspection summary being "the need to raise standards further in Arabic-medium subjects". This is a common concern among international schools in the UAE and one that Brighton College Abu Dhabi will no doubt be doing its utmost to address.
Fees range from AED 48,500 per year for Foundation to AED 74,100 per year for years 10- 13 students - making the college more expensive than either the British School or Al Yasmina - two highly popular schools for a UK curricula based education. However the school has launched scholarships of up to 50% for the brightest candidates entering Year 9 and Sixth Form.Admissions information may be found here.
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