United Arab Emirates / Abu Dhabi / Al Khubairat / British School in Al Khubairat, Abu Dhabi

British School in Al Khubairat, Abu Dhabi Review

Seen by many as the best UK curriculum school in the capital, non-profit based British School in Al Khubairat, Abu Dhabi serves approximately 1800 students from 50 nationalities, from the ages of three to eighteen years old. The school was established in 1968, making it one of the oldest schools in the emirate.
British School in Al Khubairat, Abu Dhabi
First Published: Saturday 7 July, 2012
Updated: Monday 18 December, 2017
  • School Type
    All Through
    Inspection Rating
    Very Good
  • Curricula Taught
    Also Known As
    Year Opened
    Annual Fees
    AED 36,700 - 65,400
    Annual Fee Average
    AED 55,500
    School Year
    Sep to Jun
    Teacher Turnover A teacher turnover of 22-25% is currently average for schools in the UAE. Indian schools tend to have a lower turnover with an average of around 10-15%. Note: too high a turnover is likely to mean problems with continuity from one year to the next. Too low however and a school is unlikely to get fresh ideas and perspectives that incoming teachers bring with them. As in most things, the key is managing the balance.
    Mark Leppard
    Main Teacher Nationality
    Main Student Nationality

Seen by many as the best UK curriculum school in the capital, non-profit based British School in Al Khubairat, Abu Dhabi serves approximately 1800 students from 50 nationalities, from the ages of three to eighteen years old. The school was established in 1968, making it one of the oldest schools in the emirate.

First Published: Saturday 7 July, 2012
Updated: Monday 18 December, 2017

At British School in Al Khubairat, sixty-five percent of students are British, Emiratis account for 12% of the school's population and 4% are Australian. Over 10% of students (approx 270) receive some form of learning support.  In addition, a significant number of students are recognised as Gifted & Talented.

The school was rated Very Good by the Abu Dhabi Education and Knowledge Dept (ADEK) in its most recent inspection which took place in October 2016 - a welcome return to this grade from its slip back to Good in the 2014 inspection.

The school is praised widely by ADEK for its academic approach, as well as its attainment. Standards, teaching, and results are said to be very good, and in some cases outstanding. Wider personal development is also praised. As with most schools across the UAE, the teaching of Arabic and Islamic Studies, are singled out areas for further attention. They are a significant reason behind the failure, to-date, for BSAK to achieve the Outstanding rating.

The most recent ADEK inspection in September 2016 notes that BSAK has met four of the five recommendations made in the previous report including meeting requirements for the timetabling of subjects taught in Arabic. UAE social studies is now included in the timetable. Until very recently, the school’s leadership and governance had not given sufficient priority to addressing the third action point – that of improving the Arabic curriculum.

Whilst attainment and progress in Maths, English and Science are Outstanding at almost all levels within the school, and Art, Music, PE and other subjects are all rated Very Good at all levels, Social Studies, Islamic Education and Arabic as both a first and second language are largely rated Acceptable and Weak. There are some sections of the school that are performing better - Arabic as a first and second language in FS is rated Good, and the same is true of Arabic as a Second Language within the Secondary School. It is these ratings that are clearly impacting BSAK’s ability to move beyond its Very Good rating.

However, the most recent ADEK inspection has found that the new school leadership is now taking decisive steps to improve its provision for Arabic subjects in the context of the UAE national agenda. This involves blending Arabic learning and culture across the curriculum for all students, and improving teaching and learning in Arabic subjects. It is an overdue but important improvement initiative that is likely to have a positive impact on learning for all students and, consequently, the overall performance of the school.

Overall, the inspectors praised the consistently high quality of teaching and the resulting very high achievement of students in English National Curriculum subjects, the highly articulate and confident students with positive attitudes and respect for each other within a strongly inclusive ethos and the vibrant, stimulating and caring school environment that offers support and guidance to all students. The inspectors noted also the high aspiration of students for their future education and lives and the exceptionally strong start that children make to their education in the kindergarten.

In April 2016 the school made headlines when one of its students, Derek Lee, 18, its head boy, was accepted to 17 elite universities such as Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, Browns. Johns Hopkins, Columbia, Stanford, Princeton among others.

Lee received full merit scholarships from Boston University and Fordham University for undergraduate studies, winning an aggregate scholarship amount of $705,000 (Dh2.53 million approximately).

Lee finally decided to study economics at Harvard University. He is the first in his family to go to university.

BSAK is mixed gender with a fairly even split between boys and girls - in 2013, 918 boys and 897 girls. In 2016, the breakdown was 225 pupils in Foundation Stage, younger than five, 763 in the Primary school and 890 are in the senior school, including 486 in the Sixth Form almost double the number of 2014. Given the maturity of the school, the ratios are unlikely to have changed, although the school has added additional space in order to increase capacity.

The school has also been inspected by the British Schools Overseas and its latest inspection report says it is a Good school with many Outstanding features (2015). Despite being non-selective the report notes that "students consistently achieve well above National Curriculum (NC) averages and many go on to study at high quality universities".

The school publishes the results of its external examinations. For A Level results for 2017, the school received 36 percent A* to A grades and 65 percent A* to B grades this year. This represents a drop of four percentage points in its A* to A grades when compared to 2016, when 40 percent were A* to A grades.

In 2012, the school achieved a 99 percent pass rate for A' Levels, with 12 percent of examinations resulting in an A*, 36% A* to A, 67 percent an A* to B and 87 percent an A* to C. At GCSE 49.6% received A*-A, 79.0% A*-B  and 95.7% A*-C. These are results worth shouting about.

In 2013/14 the school did one better with 8.8% getting A* and 37.3% of students achieved A* to A, 66.5% A* to B and 88% A* to C at A Level. At GCSE, 55.3% achieved A* to A, and 96% A* to C.

In 2015/16 BSAK achieved a 100% pass rate at A Level with 72% at A*-B. If these results were not impressive enough, at GCSE, 95% of grades were A*-C and 47% A*/A. 

You can find highlights of school results here.

The school is the only school in the Gulf that is a part of the both the Council of British International Schools (COBIS) and the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), as well as the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS), all of these associations promoting excellence in British education.

The school claims to be a "centre of excellence for music and performing arts in the region". It offers lessons in more than 20 instruments as well as voice coaching; has "numerous instrumental ensemble and choral groups meeting weekly"; and collaborates with some of the world’s leading musicians and orchestras who visit Abu Dhabi throughout the year. The school is also "committed to becoming" a centre of sporting excellence for the region, offering specialist sports coaching in rugby, netball, cricket and football, with a team of leading sports coaches from the UK. Its growing success in the field of competitive sports has recently seen our sister website - www.schoolscompared.com - include BSAK among its list of the Best Schools for Sports in the UAE. 

The school runs more than 100 clubs, and over 85 per cent of secondary students taking part in at least one after-school activity a week.

Facilities at the school are excellent. It has a purpose built theatre opened in September 2005 and seats up to 340 people; a large auditorium that can seat up to 600 people; a full-size synthetic-turf pitch on campus, as well as exclusive use of a high quality grass pitch adjacent to the school. It also has two well-equipped libraries.

In 2014 the British School Al Khubairat appointed Mark Leppard is its principal. For seven years prior Leppard had been principal of Doha College, shortlisted along with three other schools for “Best International School” in the UK Independent School Awards.

At Doha Leppard had received the Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).

Since his arrival, Leppard has injected some much needed stability after two previous heads in quick succession - Elaine Rawlings (as acting head) and Dr. Christopher Ray.

Leppard did take over an institution built on very solid foundations. According to the school's previous ISI report, the "quality of governance [at the school] is excellent.... With outstanding strategic vision and astute financial planning, governors have masterminded the school’s growth into an all-age school which acts as a focal point for the British community and enjoys Emirati support.

Perhaps unsurprisingly this is a school that has a reputation of being incredibly difficult to get into. If you're on this track, other highly regarded British schools in Abu Dhabi include Al Yasmina School, and Brighton College.

This may be a not for profit school, but those facilities, reports and high quality staff clearly cost. Fees at the school are top end. FS1/Nursery fees start at 41,500 AED; from FS2 to Y6 fees are 46,400 AED yearly while secondary fees are 62,300 AED. The school also charges an entry fee. For FS 1 this starts at 1,460 AED, rises to 7,740 AED from  FS 1 to FS 2. For FS 2 to Year 13 the fee is 9020 AED.

ADEC describes the fees as "Good Value" in its report, an unusual comment by the education authority, and also for the premium nature of the fees (they are top-end) but no less true given the quality of education on offer, and what you get for your money. 

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4 Archived Comments
Archived 19th Jun 2015, 13:39

This review, that was says: "Update on June 14, 2015" is totally totally inaccurate! Doctor Christopher Ray left BSAK over a year ago.

The school is now run by Elaine Rawlings whose previous management experience was head of year 8 containing 70 kids in a UK independent school.

A new Head Teacher has been appointed from Sept 2016, someone that has worked in the middle east for 17 years very successfully in Doha. His appointment will bring about some big changes in the school.

Archived 19th Jun 2015, 15:32

Thank you anon. We have updated the information in the review.

Note: We had to edit the comment. Very interesting information, but we would need a lot of it verified!

Archived 11th Apr 2013, 09:35

Much as I would like to appreciate the school; I would like to comment that the school is very biased with the admissions application system. They don't entertain non-siblings or kids other than British expats.

Up until last year, they would clearly tell you on the phone that your child stood no chance unless he/she was a sibling of an existing student or a British passport holder.

Personal experience with admissions - very negative.

Archived 18th Mar 2015, 12:34

But...38% of the students are not British citizens. Where did they come from if the school does not admit British citizens? It sounds like sour grapes from your end.