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Raha International School, Abu Dhabi Review

A popular, established and successful school Raha, recently rated Outstanding in its last ADEC report. Its ambitious new Principal has what he terms ‘a rather long to-do’ list’. With its broad mix of nationalities across the pupils and staff, Raha has a ‘new world’ feel in an environment designed with a semblance to a traditional Arabic village.
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Raha International School, Abu Dhabi

At a glance

School Type
All Through
Year Opened
2006
Annual Fees
AED 36,100 - 56,900
Annual Fee Average
AED 51,000
Inspection Rating
Outstanding
Principal
Iain Colledge
Owner
Taaleem
Curricula Taught
Community
City
Main Student Nationality
US Citizen

The Story so Far

Raha International School is a very popular IB school in Abu Dhabi having now surpassed its tenth year of operation. It is located in the suburb of Khalifa City A in the heart of the Raha Gardens area – a popular residential area for all nationalities and close to the Etihad Head office and airport. The school will cater for over 2000 students in the coming 2017/2018 academic year.

Designed with the style of an Arabic village in mind, the sand-coloured and double and three-storey classroom buildings surround several large piazzas with wide shaded pathways linking the campus. There are a lot of well-established palm trees and shrubs which help create an authentic garden feeling. There are a large number of open spaces and play areas.



The school has been divided into 3 sections, three separate EY1, EY2 and Grade 1 buildings located at one side of the campus (incorporating a new sports hall topped with a tennis court on the roof).

There is one full size football pitch, two tennis courts, three well equipped gymnasiums, ICT labs, one 25-meter swimming pool and one beginners’ pool and two main libraries. The canteen boasts both indoor and outdoor seating, with new misting fans being installed outside for the warmer months. The classrooms are well equipped with computers and interactive whiteboards as well as appropriate specialist equipment. The class sizes are 24 children in EY 1 and 2 with 7 classes in each grade. G1 to G10 have a maximum of 26 per class with 6 classes across each grade. G11 and G12 have around 22 per class, although this number varies between courses.

The pupils are from a wide variety of nationalities, 82 in total. Some 15% of students are Emirati, 15% ex-pat Arab and the remainder predominantly Western nationals.

Primary students wear white shirts/polos with a skort for the girls or trousers for both. Secondary students wear a white blouse for the girls and shirt for the boys with green trousers. All students have the option of wearing a green hoodie or sweater. Diploma Programme students wear white shirts, black trousers and have the option of a black hoodie or sweater.

The nationality of the teaching staff also varies, coming from the UK, USA, Canada, South Africa, Ireland, Australia and the UAE. Staff turnover is low at approx. 12%. The broad mix of staff and students, our guide suggested, gives the school ‘a new world feel’.

Sport, the Arts and Music are seen as integral to the whole education of the children and there is evidence of creativity around the campus. The school has chosen to follow the IB curriculum as they are convinced that this is the most successful foundation for young people, many of whom go on to university. The new Principal, Mr. Iain Colledge, also strongly supports this view.

What about Student Achievement? 

In recent years, one student was awarded a full scholarship to US Ivy League Dartmouth College and this year another was accepted to Oxford in the UK to read experimental psychology.

As there are students joining Raha from around the world, the school provides an ‘English as an Additional Language’ (EAL) programme to support students in the English language. This programme comes at no additional cost, unless an Inclusion Assistant is required.

The SEN department, which includes a team of 16 specialist staff, is seen as an important one, as many children need fast-tracking in their English to attain a good understanding or require support because of specific additional learning needs. The school also employs a Full-time Counsellor in the Primary school and in the Secondary school who support students with Social, Emotional and Behavioural counselling. An additional Counsellor in the Secondary school provides Career/University application guidance to our older students. Deputy Heads and Assistant Heads of school address any disciplinary issues.

What do the Inspectors Say? 

Overall, Raha International School was found to be an Outstanding school, a step up from the previous rating of Very Good that the school received at the last ADEC inspection. 


Raha International School





source: Inspection Report 

One of the strengths of the school is student attainment. As the report notes, "standards of achievement in most subjects are very good or outstanding and compare very well to those in other schools following the same curriculum internationally. It is only in Islamic education and UAE social studies that attainment overall does not rise above acceptable." This is extremely impressive when considering that "well over 50% of children entering the Early Years (EY) programme speak EAL."

Students’ personal and social development, and their innovation skills is also ranked as Outstanding across the board. As the report notes, "in all sections of the school, students display outstanding social and personal skills. The requirements of the curriculum ensure students take responsibility for their learning. They quickly realise that making mistakes and taking intellectual risks are a necessary part of learning and as a result, students are positive, responsible and confident." 


Source: Inspection Report

Teaching for effective learning and the effectiveness of leadership are also rated as Outstanding. As the report notes, "Teachers’ knowledge of their subjects and how students learn is exemplary. Teachers expertly apply their knowledge particularly skilfully in science, English, music, art and design and technology. This has a very positive impact on learning and is reflected in students’ outstanding progress."

The strength of leadership and management are clearly intertwined with the success of the school. As the report notes, "this is a school that has been well led and managed over a number of years. The school articulates a clear vision for its students and this influences every aspect of its activity."

The WSA Team Tours the School 

During our tour around the school, pupils and staff looked busy, lively and friendly and appeared to be focused. The atmosphere was fairly noisy and there was a certain degree of disruption as upgrading of some of the departments was taking place during term time. The school appeared to be in some areas a ‘work in progress’ with considerable construction taking place both within and outside the grounds, but this was all completed for the 2016/2017 academic year. With an investment of AED 55m, a new specialist building for the Performing Arts, as well as improvements to the current Secondary buildings and sports facilities at the rear of the site were completed The Abu Dhabi Municipality also completed construction of the new car park at the exterior of the school boundary, which includes designated drop-off zones, parent parking, bus drop-off/pick-up and staff parking.

We were able to meet the newly appointed Principal, Mr Iain Colledge, took over the role in its entirety in August 2016. Mr Colledge is more than qualified for the challenge of Principal, having been in education for a long time. He had previously worked as a school inspector both for OFSTED and ISI in the UK, for the KHDA in Dubai, and more unusually, for several years also worked in the wider business world.

Mr Colledge’s passion for Raha and for education is obvious. He is extremely keen to promote Raha and feels that its qualities have not yet been properly acknowledged, despite their achievement of the ‘Outstanding’ rating in their most recent ADEC inspection – one of only 3 schools in Abu Dhabi to achieve this rating.

Mr. Colledge states that he aims to take the school from “Outstanding to Exceptional” and to create the best school in the UAE. In order to achieve this, he believes that communication is the key. He sees his role as ensuring stability at the school whilst adjusting organizational alignment across all sections of the school and underpinning the basic structure. He is bringing a fresh pair of eyes to a school that has had the same very good leadership in place since its first year, but a school that is clearly growing and evolving quickly. A focus on the academic will clearly be a priority with a determination to see improvement in the school’s IB Diploma results, but this is not the sole area of focus for the school.

There is a Mindfulness programme run by the Head of Learning Support who is managing this as part of her Master’s Degree studies. There is also a huge extracurricular programme and key appointments have been made of an Athletics Director to provide greater focus on competitive sports and a Performing Arts Director who will make full use of the new Performing Arts building, which contains an Auditorium and Black Box theatre and Art, Music and Drama studios, among other facilities.

Additional areas under implementation by Mr. Colledge for introduction are a house system for competitive sport and pupil leadership roles, which he explained were on his rather long ‘To Do’ list. Mr. Colledge also praised not only the pupils, but also the extremely eager parents who contribute and support the establishment.. The Parent Team, whose aim is to build a greater sense of community in the school regularly partake and organise school events and are present in the day-to-day school life. There are also several opportunities for parents to volunteer throughout the school year. Due to time constraints, we were unable to speak to any parents (apart from our guide who works in admin and has children at the school). We also were unable to speak to any pupils, but our observation of them was that they appeared to be happy and focused.

The school has a communicator app for parents to keep up-to-date with school activities and there are school buses serving the community with children from EY1 to G12 are allowed to use them. It is difficult to see how Raha International can grow much larger, given the constraints of the site, but there is no doubt that parents will be disappointed if it does not do so. The school is serving its very large and diverse community, and would appear to be doing so very well – outstandingly in fact.

Fees are payable in three installments: Semester 1 in August, Semester 2 in December and Semester 3 in March. Materials are included in tuition fees for EY 1 up to Grade 10. Diploma textbooks for Grade 11 and 12 should be purchased for each course.

Other Charges
1. Re-registration Fee
For new and returning students a non-refundable re-/registration fee will be charged. The school will advise the amount and the due date. The registration fee will be adjusted against Term 1 fees.

2. Uniforms
Uniforms should be purchased at Zaks Uniform Store located on the second floor of the Al Raha Mall (location map). The store is open Saturday to Thursday, 10am to 7.30pm. For more information, please contact Zaks on +971 (0)2 556 5340 or visit www.zaksstore.com.

3. Bus Transport
RIS provides bus transport to many areas of Abu Dhabi. Costs are AED5,000 per student per annum.

4. Extra-Curricular Programme
Some of the ECP activities may incur an additional charge. Please refer to the current schedule for fee information.

5. E-Sports
E-Sports, an external provider, offer a range of sports and other activities at an additional cost in the late afternoon, in the evening and on weekends.

6. IB Examination Fees
12th Grade IB Exam Fees incur an additional charge.

7. Special Educational Needs (SEN)/English As An Additional Language (EAL)
If during the entrance assessment we discover a requirement for English Language Support or Special Educational Needs Support, please be advised that there will be an additional fee changed for this service. Parents will be notified of this charge prior to or within 4 weeks of the start of the academic year.

 

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