United Arab Emirates / Abu Dhabi / Saadiyat Island / Cranleigh Abu Dhabi

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi Review

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi opened in September 2014 for FS1 to Year 9, and is already home to, approximately, 1000 students. The latest report for the school has it ranked Very Good by the Abu Dhabi Education Council, which is quite impressive considering the school's recent opening date.
Cranleigh Abu Dhabi
First Published: Friday 24 June, 2016
Updated: Wednesday 13 December, 2017

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi opened in September 2014 for FS1 to Year 9, and is already home to, approximately, 1000 students. The latest report for the school has it ranked Very Good by the Abu Dhabi Education Council, which is quite impressive considering the school's recent opening date.

First Published: Friday 24 June, 2016
Updated: Wednesday 13 December, 2017

Arguably this is the most successful school at achieving the feel of a British public school of any in the UAE, in the best sense of the word. 

The single largest demographic within Cranleigh Abu Dhabi's student body is British (34%), followed by Americans (15%) and then Emiratis (11%).

How does the school feel? Experience it.

At the time of the school's inspection, the student population numbered 700 of which 57% were boys, 28% Muslim and 15% of Arabic heritage. Just fifteen students were designated as having special educational needs (SEN).

The Story so Far

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi is located on Saadiyat Island, the new cultural home of the capital, and therefore almost an ideal location for a school - or will be. At the moment, it is still surrounded by construction, with a one way traffic system that makes it a lengthy process to reach. However, once you negotiate the traffic system, you are led to the main entrance to the school which is large and imposing, and will be neighbours with the likes of the Louvre and Guggenheim.

The school follows an England and Wales based curriculum initially, with EYFS and IGCSEs. Note, Cranleigh Abu Dhabi offers IGCSE not GCSEs with the exceptions of Arabic Second Language, Art and Dance due to the unavailability of suitable IGCSE courses. The difference between the international and UK based qualification has widened with recent reforms. Visit our curriculum page here for more information. 

The school will then move on to A' Levels. The schools had considered the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme whilst it "watched closely the current overhaul of the UK's post-16 education landscape".

However the school has taken the A' Level route, but also offers the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ).  "The EPQ is similar in concept to the IB Extended Essay, but more in-depth in delivery. It is completed over the two years of Sixth Form."

Cranleigh Sixth Form has adopted the "Harkness style teaching" for its sixth form, which is a dialogue-based approach that allows students to further develop their independent thinking through tutorial style lessons around an oval table.

Classroom sizes are small, with a maximum of 18 per class according to information provided to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com.

As you would expect teachers have been predominantly recruited from the UK, with some UK experienced staff recruited from within the Gulf area. Staff are said to all have public school experience - which should prove to be a key differentiator for Cranleigh.

What do the Inspectors Say? 

The 2017 ADEC report ranks the overall performance of the school as Very Good. As the report notes, "Students’ achievement is rooted in their outstanding learning skills and personal development." 

Key Strengths of the school include: the range of learning experiences that promote students’ personal development and learning skills; leaders’ vision and direction and their promotion of innovation; teachers’ knowledge of their subjects and their students; the school’s promotion of and students’ respect for Islamic values and their appreciation of the heritage and culture of the UAE; the quality of children’s education in the foundation stage

Students' attainment and progress is mostly Very Good across the core subjects of English, math, and science. As the report notes, "Learning skills are outstanding for almost all students because they are motivated and eager learners. They frequently choose to work collaboratively or independently, making mature decisions about how best to achieve their goals, including by working innovatively with ICT." 

Impressively, students’ personal and social development, and their innovation skills are ranked as Outstanding across the school. "Almost all students," the report finds, "are highly responsible members of the school community, with intellectual curiosity and independence of mind."

The protection, care, guidance and support of students is also ranked Outstanding by ADEC. As the report notes, "Students feel safe and know what to do if they have any concerns. The school is safe and secure. Bullying is not tolerated and the school is a pilot for a national review of internet safety including cyber bullying."

Key areas for improvement have been identified as: further refining the quality of all teaching to ensure it consistently matches the best practice in the school; further improvement in the leadership and teaching of Arabic, particularly as a first language; the greater involvement of all school leaders in evaluating the school’s performance."

The Facilities

As you walk into the school the first impression is of an extremely cheerful and helpful Security guard on door duty who is greeted politely by students as they come and go. The entrance opens onto a large foyer which is light and airy. Offices are to the right of the foyer and great care has been taken to ensure that each has windows at both ends, so that the light streams through to the Reception area.

There is a very comfortable, homely seating area with large sofas for visitors. This side of the building looks out over the quadrangle with staff accommodation on one side, the main auditorium and sports facilities and a further teaching block (for the Senior school) surrounding the sports fields in the centre.

The classrooms for the Early Years and Junior School are located on the ground floor, leading off onto corridors to the left of the main lobby area. Each corridor has classrooms on both sides and a central area for play and group activity. Between the corridors are outside shaded areas which are used for PE for the youngest children currently.

Classrooms are again light, bright and airy and pieces of students’ work adorned on the walls add to the busy atmosphere.

Great care has been taken to ensure that even the youngest children can see outside (low-level windows) and that equipment is totally appropriate to their needs – much has been produced locally to the school’s specifications.

The school canteen is also located on the ground floor.

Older students are accommodated on the Second floor, where there are also specialist Science labs and the Library.

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi  operates an extended day with many students at school from 8am to 4.30pm and later, as Prep time and Sports activities are built into the schedule.

It is hoped that this format will encourage families to consider day-boarding initially with weekly and full-time boarding to follow eventually. Boarding Houses are due to follow in the next phase of construction.

With its proximity to the water surrounding the area, students are able to take part in a range of water-based activities, as well as the more traditional sports and after-school clubs.

What about Fees? 

Fees are at the very top end for Abu Dhabi, where schools tend to have lower fees than in neighbouring Dubai. They range from 65,000 AED in FS1 to 96333 AED in Year 10. These are top end prices (and would be even for Dubai). However, Cranleigh Abu Dhabi is positioning itself as one of, if not the premium option in the capital, operating in a very exclusive location, with the experienced staff you would expect from a similar school in the UK.

This will put pressure on the school to deliver quickly. Cranleigh Abu Dhabi is a very new school and its processes will no doubt be still bedding down. However, it already leaves a positive impression in terms of its scale, appearance and its busy, bright and cheerful atmosphere. Cranleigh has quite a reputation to live up to, but first impressions left WhichSchoolAdvisor.com feeling the school is already delivering much early promise.

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi has just rolled out its scholarship program, which is "designed to broaden access to its holistic and enriching educational model, as well as to attract and support talented students who show passion for and potential in their chosen field." There will also be scholarships available in Sports, Visual Arts and Performing Arts. Applicants from across Abu Dhabi are invited to apply as long as they are entering Year 7 and above in September 2017.

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