Emirates National Schools (ENS) opened its first branch in 2002 at Mohammed Bin Zayed City. The schools currently consist of five campuses. Three of the campuses are in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in Mohammed Bin Zayed City, Al Ain City and on Abu Dhabi Island, and in the Emirates of Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah. The ENS Abu Dhabi Primary campus caters to both boys and girls from KG1 to Grade 4.
ENS was established by Presidential Decree and is owned by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs. The Board of Trustees is made up of a number of prominent Emiratis including H.E Ahmed Mohamed Al Hemeiri, who is Chairman.
The Vision of the schools is defined as:
"Preparing future leaders through innovation in education and treasuring of cultural heritage"
The Mission of the schools states that:
"Emirates National Schools aims to provide students with educational programmes that develop character, use technology to improve learning, and prepare students to be leaders and community members."
Although clearly focused on providing an international education to Emirati students, the schools are not exclusively Emirati and accept students from a range of nationalities, although most do tend to be Arabic speakers.
The adopted curriculum is based upon American Common Core Standards in English, Maths, and Science and the United Arab Emirates – Ministry of Education programme for Arabic, Islamic and UAE Social Studies. However, since late 2015, the Abu Dhabi Emirate ENS campus schools (Al Ain City, Abu Dhabi City and Mohammed Bin Zayed City) have also become authorized International Baccalaureate World Schools. These three Campuses offer the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (PYP), Middle Years Program (MYP) and Diploma Program (DP).
As a part of new graduation requirements, students may choose between the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma course in grades eleven and twelve; the narrower range of Advanced Placement (AP) College Board courses in grades eleven and twelve; and/or the ENS college preparatory classes leading to a High School Diploma.
The mission of the ENS Abu Dhabi city campus is “the development of inquiring, critical thinking, globally responsible citizens who are challenged to realize their full potential authentic learning experiences”. The school is organised between KG, the Primary School (from Grades 1-4) and separate Boys and Girls campuses from Grade 5-12. Children are in mixed gender classes through to the end of grade 4 and then separated through Middle and High School. The school is located over 3 campuses with the Boys campus being on Delma street, the Girls campus in Al Nayhan and the KG and Primary section in Al Manaseer.
Facilities at the Abu Dhabi Primary campus are impressive. The building, over 3 floors, has large, spacious classrooms with interactive white boards and a range of specialist facilities including computer labs, two libraries, Science labs, an Auditorium, a canteen, an indoor swimming pool, a large outdoor football field and a large shaded KG play area with a wide range of equipment.
The KG and Primary School educates 1,212 students of whom 58% are Emirati. The other largest nationality groups are Jordanian (12%), and Syrian and Palestinian (each 3%). The school is selective and admission may include interviews with the student conducted by the Campus Director or delegate. In addition to an oral assessment, there are formal written assessments in Arabic, English and Mathematics for older students.
Students are support by 77 teachers and 36 teaching assistants providing a teacher- student ratio 1: 15 – a relatively low number enabling personalised attention. Staff turnover at 22% is about average for an international school in the UAE. With a recent change of Principal and the recognition of development requirements where staff are concerned, it may be that on-going staff turnover is to be expected, as teachers complete their contracts and are not offered renewal of their positions.
The school was most recently inspected by ADEK in October 2017 and was rated Acceptable - the minimum requirement for UAE schools and one level below the preferred Good level to which all schools are expected to aspire. The Board of Trustees appointed a new Principal from September 2017 as a result of which, the school is in a period of transition. The aim is for the school to be rated Very Good for the next inspection.
The two key indicators of Students’ Personal and Social Development and Innovation Skills, and Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of Students were found to be Good. The remaining four key indicators were found to be Acceptable. Improvements have been noted since the school’s previous inspection – in particular, attainment and progress in all the core subjects has improved. Teachers have extended the range of extra-curricular activities related to the curriculum and the implementation of the PYP curriculum has improved due to the provision of focused professional development for teachers. Parents are now more involved in the life of the school and students’ attendance has improved and is now good, although punctuality apparently remains an issue.
What the inspectors say:
Students’ achievement was found to be acceptable and their progress, learning skills and attainment were acceptable in most subjects. In Islamic Education, progress, learning skills and attainment are good in KG and in Primary. Progress, learning skills and attainment in Social Studies are good in KG. English writing and speaking skills are less secure in both phases. MAP data for 2017, indicates that almost all students attain below age-related expectations. However, attainment from KG2-grade 4 is weak in both Mathematics and English, although, the data indicates, over the last three years, a steady upward trend in both subjects.
Students’ personal and social development is good. Students display positive attitudes in lessons and around the school. They behave well and are friendly and respectful to one other, to staff and visitors. Though attendance is good, students are not always punctual to school. They demonstrate a strong understanding and appreciation of Islam’s influence on UAE society, and of other world cultures. However, their critical-thinking and innovation skills are not yet developing sufficiently in lessons.
The overall quality of teaching and assessment was found by Inspectors to be broadly acceptable. Most teachers demonstrate secure subject knowledge and teach lessons that promote acceptable achievement for most students. However, the school has few consistent approaches to assessment that are understood and used by all staff. Staff are not yet benchmarking students’ achievement effectively against national and international standards - (two of the main requirements set out as part of the UAE Education 2020 strategy).
The overall quality of the school’s curriculum was also found to be acceptable. The curriculum is broad, balanced and age-appropriate at both phases and the school makes adequate modifications to the curriculum, although the needs of the more able students and students with additional needs are not always met consistently. Currently the curriculum is going through a transition from solely the American Common Core to the IB PYP programme, which is more cross-curricular in nature.
The protection, care, guidance and support of students was also found to be good. The school has effective child protection approaches in place. The school identifies students who have special educational needs (SEN) and has started to identify students who are gifted and talented, although these are clearly areas in need of further development.
The overall quality of leadership was rated acceptable. Inspectors noted that the new Principal has a clear vision and an accurate awareness of current teaching standards. Self-evaluation and school improvement planning are currently being aligned - suggesting that previously the standard of provision in the school was not necessarily reflective of its needs. Inspectors found that leaders do not yet use school data effectively to improve the school - a specific requirement to ensure that measures being taken are based on independent data.
Overall, the school's strengths were summarised as students’ strong knowledge of Islamic values and UAE culture, the partnership with parents and the community, and the new Principal’s accurate evaluation of the school’s teaching standards.
Main areas of improvement identified be the inspection team were noted to be the requirement to establish robust assessment practices to monitor and track students’ progress and inform their learning; to enhance the effectiveness and impact of middle leaders to strengthen teaching across the school; and to improve students’ punctuality to school.
It seems that ENS Abu Dhabi Primary School now has a Principal in place who has already identified key areas on which she will need to focus over the next two years, prior to the next ADEK inspection. ENS Schools group are clearly ambitious and investing in their schools. It is to be hoped that this investment in people, training and other improvement measures will be borne out when ADEK's inspection team next review the school.
Fees range from AED 23,330 in KG1 and 2 to AED 32260 from Grades 1-4.
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