At a glance
BISAD has recently been rated A2 (Very Good) by the Abu Dhabi education authority, which puts it in a very small band of schools. This is all the more impressive because it has jumped two grades since its last inspection when it was rated B4 - satisfactory and improving.
The Story so Far
The school follows the English National Curriculum, with the International Baccalaureate Diploma program recently introduced in Year 12, and caters for 1580 students (up from 1350 in 2015 and 1250 students in 2014). The school has 829 pupils in primary, 314 students in Middle and 109 in High. There are also 330 students in KG/FS. British students form the single largest group with one in four students. There is also a sizable Emirati population (21%), and a smaller Indian one (6%).
Helping to beef up attainment and the IB offering is the (relatively) new Principal, Patrick Horne. Most recently Mr Horne was Principal of the British International School of Shanghai, a fellow Nord Anglia Education school. The school was recognised as within the top 5% of schools in the world by the International Baccalaureate Organisation.
Mr Horne leads a team of 125 teachers, and 79 teaching assistants. The school has a teacher to sudent ratio of 1:19 in KG/ FS, 1:22 in Primary, and 1:9 in Secondary. Teacher turnover is currently running at 20%. This is slightly below the UAE average. Helping with lower churn of staff will be professional development which is said to be "continuous and has a very positive impact on learning".
Key Strength of the School
Key strengths of the school according to ADEC are in the secure personal and social development made by students that "is very effectively nurtured by the quality of protection, care, support and guidance.
"Students demonstrate improving rates of progress: the majority of students attain levels that are above curriculum standards in Islamic education, English, mathematics, science and other subjects. "This represents very good progress from students’ starting points."
Curriculum planning, adaptation and implementation are also "highly effective and meet the learning needs of most students, particularly those with special educational needs (SEN).
"Staff, parents and students are strongly supportive of the school’s aims and the clear strategic direction and educational leadership provided by the principal.
Subjects taught include English, maths and science, French and Spanish, as well as Arabic, Islamic and Social Studies. BISAD also has a Global Classroom initiative to help students develop better cultural and political awareness of the world around them. Extra curricular activities offered are varied, including film studies, sport and drama.
What about Facilities?
The range of facilities available at the school is impressive, and includes common rooms, science labs, a pool, music suites, art rooms, drama studio, ICT labs plus a well-stocked library, which is new, of 17000 books and access to e-books. Courtyards are well-shaded. Classrooms are equipped with interactive whiteboards. In addition, all areas of the school are accessible to wheelchair users and standards of hygiene at the school are considered very high.
In September 2015, BISAD opened its 2nd floor extension to their original building so that it has now grown to Ground plus 2. This has enabled the school to refurbish some of the original classrooms and particularly to extend the Sports halls and Sixth form facilities.
The new floor is almost entirely given over to Sixth form students, with specialist classrooms, study areas, a purpose-built library and catering facilities. All areas are light and bright with strong primary colours in the common areas and more muted tones in the classrooms. New outdoor sports facilities have also been added with a vast new swimming pool facility, but much of the grass sports fields remain untouched and are used for all manner of grass sports.
Further plans for updates to the building and facilities are in hand with more changes expected to take place in the coming months.
The school has also had its canteen refurbished (relatively recently) and communal eating is encouraged, although younger children eat in a separate dining hall.
What about Fees?
School fees range from 47,900 AED to 63,200 AED, plus an additional 1500 AED registration fee. This is premium pricing in Abu Dhabi.
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The building is clearly a traditional school design, similar in fact to the university buildings in front of it.
Classrooms are located around 2 large quadrangles with a central spine joining the buildings which contain many of the specialist rooms and sports hall.
FS1 and year 1 on one side and FS2 and years 2 and 3 on the other, are located on the ground floor and have access to the quadrangles which are shaded and well equipped with large outdoor equipment and other specialist play materials for these age groups.
Years 4, 5 and 6 are located in one second floor wing, whilst years 7 to 13 are located in the other.
Like many newer schools in the UAE (BISAD was established in 2009), the student numbers lessen through the school with just over 100 students in the current Sixth Form.
Access to the school is through a centrally located reception which is small and friendly. Much of the turquoise colour that is included in the school uniform is reflected in the soft furnishings of the entrance. The Administration and Admissions Offices are located off the main reception.
Walking through the school, students appear well turned out, courteous and busy!
The school has many good quality facilities for students including a number of large outdoor play areas and sports fields (including grass football pitches and 2 covered basketball courts) plus swimming facilities. The strong focus on Sports activities and BISAD's involvement in both the ADISSA and DASSA school leagues, has recently led to our sister website, www.schoolscompared.com, including BISAD on its list of Best Schools for Sports in the UAE.
There are two dining rooms split between the younger FS to year 2 age groups and older students with an outside caterer providing hot meals. The Dining Room for older students includes a top table to which the highest achievers are invited on a weekly basis. Among the other facilities are two ICT labs with i-pad usage from year 4 onwards, specialist Art studios which are used by year 5 onwards, two Dance studios, a Black Box Drama studio, specialist music rooms and a large double height PE Hall which is used for assemblies held by Key Stage weekly. The library is a feature of the school which has been carefully and cleverly laid out with special seating areas to attract students to read a while. French and Spanish are taught from year 1 and Arabic A from FS2.
With the growth of the school, the management team has been strengthened with a new Head of Secondary and some restructuring of the management team in Primary.
The school is felt to be more British than international currently and the aim is to change this slightly by integrating more of the features of truly world class international schools focusing on Academic rigour (with a focus on the academic requirements of IGCSE and IB Diploma), a strengthening of the Arts curriculum to celebrate cultural diversity and different art forms, a greater emphasis on Sports and Extra Curricular activities and expansion of Modern Foreign Languages (Korean for example), based on the demographic requirements of students.
Given the focus on academic excellence, it is interesting to note that BISAD is a non-selective school and provides strong support for children with additional learning requirements and language support.
A Curriculum Access team carries out case by case assessment of students and creates Individual Education Programmes tailored to their requirements. The Language Centre (a school within the school) works with students will little or no English on a tiered admissions basis.
Much of the structure of the school is based on the guidance of Professor Deborah Ayre which essentially provides that all Children can achieve and that IQ can grow. Staff are constantly being challenged to change their attitudes towards teaching with a more open approach to the curriculum. This is also evident in the way in which the integration of the national language and culture is being addressed within the school with the Arabic team involved as part of a mentoring team with a more integrated approach to teaching.
Another key focus of the school – and indeed all Nord Anglia schools – is professional staff development. In this case, staff are able to participate in professional training through the Nord Anglia University where courses are accredited by Kings College London. The aim is to ensure that staff remain motivated and feel part of a supportive, community environment, so that staff turnover (a constant issue in this transient part of the world), is reduced.
Overall there is a real sense of dynamism within this school. Although the buildings themselves are traditional in aspect and lack the flair and grandeur of some of the new schools that have opened in Abu Dhabi in recent times, there is a strong feeling of enthusiasm, drive and commitment from both staff and pupils alike, all contained within a really vibrant environment.
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