The British International School Abu Dhabi (BIS AD) is a rapidly growing FS- Year 13 (K-12) private school for students between the ages of 3 to 18 years. The school, located between Khalifa City B and Madinat bin Zayed City behind Abu Dhabi University, was established in September 2009, and is run by Nord Anglia Education as part of its group of international schools.
The British International School in Abu Dhabi (BISAD) is one of two UAE schools operated by internationally renowned Nord Anglia Education - the other is the Nord Anglia International School Dubai.
Although Nord Anglia Education is based in the UK, it has not until recently operated any schools in that country but has schools in international locations around the world. It is known for its academic focus and success, together with a commitment to a broad curriculum offering that includes links to the Juilliard School of Performing Arts and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among other highly regarded educational institutions.
Two significant announcements were made in time for the start of the 2022-23 academic year by the Nord Anglia/BISAD team.
The first was the departure of Patrick Horne, the long time Principal of the school. His successor was named as Liam Cullinam, who joins BISAD from highly regarded Nord Anglia International School Dubai, where he led the opening and development of the Secondary school.
It also became clear that Mr. Horne had left BISAD at a high point in its development, as the school received an Outstanding rating from ADEK's inspection team - joining the small number of Abu Dhabi schools (now standing at 10) to have achieved the top rating. This review will be updated with full details of the inspection report, which can be found under the inspection tab, in due course.
As with many UAE schools, and particularly those that have grown organically, student numbers tend to be larger in the Foundation and Primary grades, narrowing at the top of the school. Class sizes vary from a maximum of 20 in Foundation Stage (and a very generous staff:student ratio of 1:7), to a maximum of 24 in Primary and Secondary and teacher:student ratio of 1:12. These low student to staff numbers mean that students receive the personal attention they need to progress and flourish.
BISAD caters for approximately 1,700 students with British and Emirati students forming the largest population groups followed by a much smaller Indian one, with a total of 75 different nationalities represented overall. There is a slightly higher ratio of Boys (at 55%) to Girls (45%). The 140 teachers who work at the school are predominantly British, although they are recruited from around the world, due to Nord Anglia Education's reputation. Staff retention, at 85%, is impressive and indicates are settled and happy team. Staff offer a good blend of experience at all levels, both in terms of teaching and leadership. All teaching staff (without exception) have a teaching qualification.BIS AD also has a strong commitment to inclusion, with a large and well-resourced department supporting EAL and individual learning needs.
The school follows the English National Curriculum from FS1 to Year 11 with the International Baccalaureate Diploma programme in Years 12 and 13.
The academic focus of BISAD is strengthened by its association with Nord Anglia Education and the broader relationships developed across the group. A collaboration between Nord Anglia Education and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has seen the two institutions develop and implement the STEAM programme across Nord Anglia’s family of schools worldwide. BISAD offers a curriculum written by MIT specifically for its students, with BIS Upper Primary and Lower Secondary students participating in a series of MIT projects and challenges throughout the year.
In addition, students benefit from the collaboration between Nord Anglia Education and The Juilliard School in New York with a focus on drama, music and dance. Students follow a performing arts curriculum developed by specialists from Juilliard, as well as enjoying Juilliard alumni visits to the school throughout the year.
BISAD offers a wide range of IGCSE and IB subjects - a total of 30 across both programmes - and IBDP students are able to study their own language, allowing a wide variety of options to be available.
In addition to the academic, the school is very much committed to a holistic and well-rounded approach, offering a wide range of over one hundred extracurricular activities. This comprehensive CCA programme has been carefully considered to meet the needs and abilities of all students. Whether it be sporting, craft, technology, performing arts or academically-based activities, students develop the knowledge and skills to use and apply in lessons and the future.
In early 2021, it was announced that BISAD had received an award from an internationally recognised Educational research organisation for its pathways to continued and university education award for a university preparation programme implemented during campus closures as a result of Covid 19.
BISAD offers the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award for students in Year 10 and above, which contributes towards the Community, Action and Service element of the IB Diploma in Years 12 and 13. Students across various year levels are also offered the opportunity to go on a range of overseas trips including trekking in Switzerland, an Expedition to Tanzania, a London English trip, as well as to New York under Juilliard and MIT programmes.
BISAD shared its IB Diploma results with WhichSchoolAdvisor.com for the 2020-21 academic year - the second in which students' grades were assessed following the cancellation of exams as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic.
With a cohort of 42 students, the average point score for the school was 37.6 - well above both the UAE and global averages. The overall pass rate for BISAD students was 93%. 97% of awards were at 30+ points, 86% at 35+ points and a significant 44% at 40+ points - placing this latter group in the top 3% of students worldwide.
BISAD also shared its IGCSE results with WhichSchoolAdvisor.com for 2021, the second year when examinations were cancelled and results were based on Centre Assessed Grades. A cohort of 90 students were entered for a total of 780 examinations. 31% of entries achieved a Grade 9, with 47% being awarded an A* (Grade 9-8), 62% of entries achieved A*-A (Grades 9-7), 78% were awarded A*-B (Grades 9-6), and 94% achieved A*-C, (Grades 9-4). Overall the pass rate was 95%, with 91% of students achieving 5 or more passes at A*-C including English and Maths.
In 2020 - where results were school assessed grades for GCSE and IGCSE, and partially school assessed for the IB Diploma - 25% of BISAD students achieved 40 points and above for the IB Diploma and there was a 98% pass rate. The average point score of all students was 35 and was significantly ahead of the worldwide average of 30. This is the level of attainment required to gain admission to the world's elite universities, such as Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard and Stanford. The highest achieving student, Amandine Cohu, scored 44 points which places her in the top 1% of Baccalaureate Diploma Programme candidates worldwide.
I/GCSE results included 58% of all grades being awarded at A* or A or 9-7. This significantly exceeds the UK average of 21%. 96% of students achieved five or more A*- C or 9-4 grades, compared to the UK average of 67%.
In the IB results for 2018, 22 BISAD students took the academically challenging IB Diploma programme and achieved an average point score again of 32 points. This compares with a UAE average of 31.41 and a global average of 29.78 (down from 29.9 in 2017). The students achieved a 100% Diploma pass rate which is not only above the world average of 79%, but is the highest in the school’s history. 14 of the 22 full diploma students got 30 points or more. The two highest achieving students scored 41 points each, which places them both in the top 4% of diploma candidates worldwide.
In 2017, the IB Diploma pass rate for BISAD students was 97% with an average IB points score of 32 - well ahead of the global average. Students have gone on to study at a range of international universities in the UK, the Netherlands and Australia among other destinations and are guided through the university application process by specialists.
What the inspectors say
Currently rated Very Good, the most recent ADEK report notes key strengths of the school as Students’ Personal and Social development as independent and responsible learners, citizens and leaders; the teaching and achievement of students in English medium subjects; school leaders’ day to day running of the school and its positive impact on the care and support of all students; the links between areas of learning and the curriculum choices available to students, particularly in Foundation Stage and in the Sixth Form; and the school’s partnerships with parents in promoting students’ achievement and well-being.
Since the last inspection, the Inspection team noted that the school has sustained a very good quality of teaching, assessment and curriculum. This has resulted in students’ achievement remaining very good overall. Students’ personal and social development and the protection, care, guidance and support of students have improved and are now Outstanding. The school has made progress in improving the achievement of students in subjects taught in Arabic. In common with many schools in the UAE, this has yet to match that found in all other subjects. The school has also introduced rigorous systems for identifying students who are gifted and talented (G&T). The school now has a highly active and effective parent advisory board and, overall, the leadership team demonstrates a very good capacity to continue to innovate and improve over time.
In terms of recommendations for improvement, the Inspectors advised that BISAD needs to focus on improving the effectiveness of teaching and students’ achievement in Arabic medium subjects to close the gap with English medium subjects. They proposed this could be achieved by: ensuring teachers demonstrate higher expectations of students through sharper questioning and more challenging writing tasks in lessons and providing more opportunities for all students to practice their speaking and listening skills in carefully structured group work.
The school should also improve the leadership of Arabic medium subjects and the promotion of the Arabic language throughout the curriculum and the school by: appointing an Arabic speaking school leader to champion the Arabic language and to evaluate its teaching; significantly enhancing the school’s supply of appealing and challenging Arabic language books and resources; and by. integrating use of the Arabic language into the English medium curriculum and throughout the school day.
It is very clear, from the Inspection team's comments and recommendations, where the focus needs to lie. The challenge for BIS AD, in common with many UAE schools, will be to find the quality of staff to be able to bring these recommendations to life.
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.
What about Facilities?
The range of facilities available at the school is impressive, and includes common rooms, a spacious Sixth Form Centre, ICT and Science labs, two swimming pools, music suites, art rooms, drama studio, plus a well-stocked library of 17,000 books and access to e-books. Courtyards are well-shaded.
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.
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.
Specialist facilities for a range of subjects are provided, including Science laboratories.
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.
Performing Arts are also a popular activity within the school enabling other talents to be discovered.
The school has also had its canteen refurbished and communal eating is encouraged, although younger children eat in a separate dining hall.
The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com School Survey which can be found here, has received a reasonably high number of responses. Parents are happy with their children's enjoyment of school and their sense of belonging - both measures for which are well above UAE averages. A sizable 85% are also fully satisfied with the level of academic achievement of the school. Even the usual issue of fees seems to be one about which most the majority of parents are either fully (60%) or partially satisfied (33%).
Between these key measures, it is perhaps unsurprising that over 80% have given no consideration to moving their child to another school and that 90% would recommend BISAD to other parents.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at BISAD, please do share your experience with other potential members of your community by completing our Survey here.
There is no question in our mind that BISAD offers an excellent standard of education to parents seeking the British/International Baccalaureate combination. It is one of only a small number of Abu Dhabi schools to offer this curriculum option (which is more common in Dubai) - though there is no question that the IB Diploma programme is highly demanding and may not suit every student. However, for students who are academically able, the Diploma is very much regarded as the Gold Standard by the best universities globally.
What about Fees?
School fees range from AED 50,300 to AED 66,400 AED, plus an additional 5% registration fee for all new joiners, which will be deducted from tuition fees when students join the school. This is premium pricing in Abu Dhabi.
British International School 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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