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 1,700 students.
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, in terms of ethos, nomenclature and academic direction.
The school has welcomed over 4,650 students since opening its doors in 2011 and was recently named amongst the top 100 private schools in the world by Spear’s Schools Index. whilst its parent school was named the ‘UK’s School of the Decade’ by the Sunday Times.
In addition to being rated Outstanding by the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) since 2018, the College has recently been awarded WhichSchoolAdvisor's sister site, SchoolsCompared's, Top Schools Award for Best School in the UAE for Theatre, Dance and the Performing Arts 2021-22, having previously achieved the Top Schools Award for Best School for Music in 2019.
The school has been led for the past five years by Mr. Simon Corms. In August 2021, owners Bloom Education announced that Mr. Corms would be transferring to sister school Brighton College Al Ain, following the retirement of the outgoing Headmaster, Dr. Ken Greig.
Taking over the position of Mr. Corms in Abu Dhabi is Ms. Helen Wilkinson, as Headmistress, who joins the school from Le Régent International School, Crans Montana, in Switzerland; an independent international boarding and day school affiliated with the prestigious Institut Le Rosey.
At the school, she had two key roles: Head of Secondary School and Head of Academics. According to Bloom, in both roles, Ms. Wilkinson "successfully supported the growth and development of the school and her pupils and colleagues alike. Her extensive educational experience had a significant impact on the school and her sense of purpose and direction demonstrated her ability to listen, reflect and implement a clear, compelling strategic direction and common purpose".
Although thoroughly 'British' in terms of the structure of the school and curriculum, 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 27% of those enrolled.
The second largest nationality group is Emirati who make up a significant minority of the student body at 18%, followed by Indian (6%) and Australian (5%). Some 7% of the student body (approximately 115) have been identified as students of Determination, with Special Educational Needs (SEN) requirements. A significant number of students are identified as Gifted & Talented - approximately 450 students.
The majority of the 143 teachers are from the UK or other native English speaking countries. They are supported by a further 61 teaching assistants. The teacher:student ratio at 1:12 is what would be expected in a school of the fee level of Brighton College. Teaching staff are evidently satisfied with their employment - staff turnover at 19% in 2018, the last academic year where this data was published, is slightly below the UAE average.
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 the facilities?
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.
We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com are massively impressed by the transparency that exists at Brighton College Abu Dhabi in the context of its students' academic achievements. The school has consistently been among the first to publish its results each year.
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 2016." We cannot 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.
Results for 2019 were also shared with WhichSchoolAdvisor.com. 78 students sat a total of 741 exams. 47% of entries were graded % A*/9-8, 72% A*-A/9-7, 89% A*-B/9-6, and 99% A*-C/9-4. 99% % students achieved 5 A*-C/9-4 (inc Maths and English) with the highest single student achievement 9 passes at Grade 9, and one 1A*.
A level results were equally impressive with 51 students sitting A Levels and of the exams entered, 11% of entries were graded A*, 40% of entries were graded A*-A, 68% of entries were graded A*-B, 86% of entries were graded A*-C, and 100% of exam entries were graded A*-E. These results exceeded the 2018 results and with a value-added score +0.8 (0.6 in 2018), representing the actual results achieved versus those predicted on entry to the A Level programme.
Results for 2021 and 2021 were shared with WhichSchoolAdvisor.com. In the two years of the Covid pandemic, where students did not sit examinations and grades were awarded based on Centre Assessed Grades, based on teacher predictions, Brighton College Abu Dhabi again performed impressively.
In 2020, a total of 61 students entered A Level examinations with 45.4% of all grades achieved being A*–A, 70.7% of grades were graded A*–B, and 89.3% of the grades were at A* – C. Based on initial expectations of students' potential through base-line assessments conducted by the school, achieved grades were over half a grade higher on average. UAE national pupils achieved 59% A*-B and 88% A*-C grades.
The college celebrated its best ever GCSE results. In total, 30% of exam entries achieved Grade 9, 52% Grade 9 - 8 (A*), 77% Grade 9 - 7 (A*-A), 93% Grade 9-6 (A* - B), and 100% Grade 9 - 4 (A*-C). Success was achieved across the full, and varied range of subjects taken at GCSE, including Maths, where 40% achieved grade 9, and in Further Pure Mathematics, where all students achieved Grade 9. In the Sciences and Mathematics departments, more than 50% attained a grade 9 or 8. In addition, this year 80% of pupils studying Mandarin achieved Grade 9 and 100% achieved Grade 9 – 8.
The 2021 results, again based on Teacher Assessed Grades, resulted in 67 students, who were entered for 215 A Level exams, achieving 28.8% of results at A*, 63.3% at A* -A and 95.8% at A*-C. The highest achieving students received 4 passes at A*.
At I/GCSE, the 77 students who were entered for 729 exams were awarded one third of entries at Grade 9s, whilst 56% of entries were Grade 9 - 8 (A*), over three-quarters (77%) of entries were awarded Grades 9 - 7 (A*-A), 92% were Grades 9-6 (A* - B) and 99% of awards were Grade 9-5 (A*- High C).
Results in STEM subjects were particularly impressive, with 87.3% of grades across all three Sciences awarded at Grades 9-7, whilst in Mathematics 80.2% achieved these grades. Arts subjects also achieved high grades, with Art (71%), Drama (78%) and Design Technology (64%) awarded at Grades 9-8 this year.
Some 330 students have graduated from Brighton College Abu Dhabi since the opening of its Sixth Form in 2014. In 2021, the College reported that 82% of its Sixth Formers who are studying in the UK are attending Russell Group universities such as University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, King’s College London, and University of Warwick.
Students who have shone during their time studying at Brighton College Abu Dhabi include; Hyochan Cho who was ranked first in Maths for the International Olympiad Foundation, the UAE's largest Olympiad competition in 2020, Maitha AlHajaj who was selected from 351,000 participants to take part in the Arab Reading Challenge and received an award for her involvement from Sheikha Jameela Al Muhairi, the Minister of State for Public Education. Sirine Messaikeh also scored the world’s highest mark in the Pearson Business GCSE in 2019, and Mohamed Al Menhali who was announced as a member of the first Emirati Children’s Parliament in 2020.
Brighton College Abu Dhabi was inspected by the ADEK inspection team for the fourth time in October 2018 and finally achieved the Outstanding rating it had been pursuing, achieving the same rating as its sister school in Al Ain. As a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, no subsequent inspection has taken place.
Not only did the College achieve an overall rating of Outstanding, but it achieved this rating for each of the six key performance standards that form the core criteria for the inspection process.
The summary of the report by the inspection team notes that "The current head master, along with the majority of other college leadership team (CLT) members, has joined the school since January 2017. These include the newly appointed Director of Arabic who was appointed in September 2018". Significant change at the top can be the making or breaking of a school - at Brighton College, it has evidently paid off.
Clearly, in a school with such a significant Emirati contingent, the focus on the core Arabic subjects was certain to be a critical area for the inspection team - and one in which the College has obviously made significant strides since 2016-17.
Further, the inspection team noted that "The overall performance of the school is outstanding. Achievement overall is now outstanding. Leaders have maintained the highest standards in teaching and learning in the English medium subjects whilst improving provision and outcomes in the Arabic medium subjects. Students learning skills are now outstanding. Lessons are creative and innovative. Leaders have an ambitious vision and clear strategic direction for the school which are shared by the whole school community. Self-evaluation and improvement planning processes are outstanding".
The inspectors found that Students' attainment (notably in Arabic, Social Studies and Islamic Education) had improved to Good (for Arabic) and Very Good for the other two subjects. They noted that "Students' achievement in the English medium subjects continues to be outstanding. Learning skills have improved and are also outstanding. Students' critical-thinking, problem-solving and innovation skills are intrinsic features of their learning. The gap in achievement between Arabic and English medium subjects is closing." (Our emphasis..)
Similarly, Teaching and Assessment had also improved to Outstanding, although inspection team noted that the standards across the English-taught subjects, were not necessarily reflected as strongly in the Arabic core subjects.
Finally, Leadership and Management also achieved the Outstanding rating for the first time. The ADEK team reported that "The CLT's strategic vision and ambitious direction for the school is embraced by all stakeholders. Leadership is distributed to create an ethos of collective responsibility. All leaders are held to account for the quality of teaching and learning. Partnership with parents and the role of governors have a significant impact on raising students' achievements and improving the overall performance of the school. Standards in Islamic Education, Arabic and social studies have improved since the last inspection because leaders have strongly focused on these through accurate self-evaluation, school improvement planning and review. They recognise the need to further close the gap in achievement between Arabic medium subjects and those taught in English."
Inspectors defined the strength of the College as:
Of course, there are still areas which can be improved. The inspection team recommended that College should:
The focus for Brighton College is very clear from an ADEK perspective for the next academic year. But, of course, in reality, they must also maintain and improve standards across the board.
Nonetheless, Brighton College can deservedly feel very proud at having made the step up to Outstanding. It is one of only 7 private schools in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi to achieve the top rating.
In addition to the ADEK report, the College 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.
If you would like to read the ADEK Inspection report - and we strongly believe that you should to obtain a complete picture - you will find it here.
The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Parent Survey provides some independent parental feedback, which is - somewhat to our surprise - not as positive as we might have anticipated. To be fair, we should point out that the feedback is based on only 28 responses. However, those parents who have responded have awarded the school an overall rating of 2.8/5 - or an approval rating of 56%.
Children's sense of belonging and enjoyment of going to the school are below UAE averages. 61% of parents are fully satisfied with the quality of academic performance of the school, with none dissatisfied - however, this figure has slipped from 76% two years ago - pre-pandemic - and may be a reflection of the distance learning programmes put in place during the pandemic. A significant 86% of respondents said that their children required additional tuition outside of school. Despite this, the majority of parents felt confident that the school could meet their child's individual learning needs.
It also seems that the school needs to work on its communication to parents - 25% were only partially satisfied with this aspect, and the same percentage again were dissatisfied. The majority of parents feel that the school's fees represent at least partial value for money, but a significant 21% disagreed with this statement - up from 5% two years ago. And whilst 57% of parents would recommend Brighton College to others, a sizable 25% say they would not. This latter figure has not greatly changed from two years ago, but a higher proportion of parents has moved to being 'unsure'.
As is often the case, disaffected parents are more inclined to comment than those who are positive.
If you are parent, teacher or student at Brighton College, Abu Dhabi, and would like to share your experience with other potential members of your community, please complete our Survey.
Unfortunately, ADEK does not formally seek parental, staff or student feedback prior to inspections. Their comments on Parental Partnership are based on feedback during the inspection, but not through a wider survey of the school community - something we regret.
As an ADEK Outstanding rated school, it is clear that Brighton College Abu Dhabi (and indeed its sister school in Al Ain), is highly regarded by the emirate's regulators - as it is by the team at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com too. Bloom Education has clearly made a real effort to ensure that the ethos and practices of the UK school have been incorporated as far as possible into the day to day running of the college, and the holistic focus - particularly in the Arts and Performing Arts provisions of the school are clear evidence. We would most definitely recommend.
As one would expect for a top quality UK curriculum school - fees fall into the High to Very High category on ADEK's scale - range from AED 48,900 per year for Foundation to AED 77,720 per year for years 10- 13 students. However the school offers academic scholarships for the brightest candidates entering Year 9 and Sixth Form. Further details may be obtained by contacting the College by email at [email protected]
Brighton College 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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