RAK Academy Review

Set over five extensive campuses, RAK Academy boasts over 23 acres of grounds, experienced international teachers, top-notch facilities and highly reputed sports teams. The school one of the first in the UAE to offer both UK and IB curricula (at Primary and post-16 levels) for a highly affordable fee range.
Parents' Rating
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2.6 out of 5 based on 18 reviews
At a glance
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
No rating
Availability 2020/21
No data
Availability 2021/22
No data
Annual fee average
AED 31,000
Annual fees
AED 15,500 - 38,490
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
1975
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Graham Beale
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom
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RAK Academy
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
No rating
Availability 2020/21
No data
Availability 2021/22
No data
Annual fee average
AED 31,000
Annual fees
AED 15,500 - 38,490
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
1975
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Graham Beale
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom
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Set over five extensive campuses, RAK Academy boasts over 23 acres of grounds, experienced international teachers, top-notch facilities and highly reputed sports teams. The school one of the first in the UAE to offer both UK and IB curricula (at Primary and post-16 levels) for a highly affordable fee range.

The story so far...

Ras Al Khaimah  Academy (RAKA) which started life as RAK English Speaking School, is one of the oldest, largest, and most highly regarded schools in the UAE. It is a not-for-profit, non-selective, coeducational school serving over 3,800 students of 97 different nationalities, from Pre-KG to Grade 12, at 5 campuses located across the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah.

Recent feedback from parents to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com are relatively limited, but in 2021, parents told us that:
"The school has been moving through a significant phase of positive change. It appears students are at the forefront of these changes. Better communication and transparency have helped build a strong school community. Optimistic of a bright future." "Approachable and warm staff.

Find out more about the school community's thoughts in The Buzz.

The school was originally founded in 1975 to provide education for the children of British expatriates in the Emirate. Since 1988, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, the school has evolved to cater for students of all nationalities and abilities. 

“Our men and women have the best education. We need to get our young people more exposed to the world and to be armed with knowledge. They could be the vehicles of change that we aspire to. They become the leaders and entrepreneurs that are our best bet to success.” H.H. Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, Patron of RAK Academy.

With a strong family ethos, the school says that it places “the wellbeing of our students and the interests of our community at the heart of everything we do”.

The Vision of RAKA is Learning Excellence with a Community Heart. “Our students embrace challenges whilst taking responsibility to achieve their best. They strive to learn the skills and knowledge needed to excel as lifelong learners.”

The aim of RAK Academy, according to its Mission, is:

  • To create a culture of lifelong learning
  • To deliver a broad, balanced, and challenging education that enables all learners to succeed.
  • To create a safe, stimulating, and engaging learning environment.

The school is led by Graham Beale, Executive Principal, who joined RAK Academy in 2020 from highly regarded Arcadia School in Dubai having been the Founding Principal there from its opening in 2016.

RAK Academy is not one, but five schools. The five branches of the school are each led by a Head of School; these are Edward Bantry White at the International Secondary School Khuzam and Moray Dickson at British School Al Hamra.

There are a number of changes at the top for the 2021-22 academic year. Kathryn Allen will join the British School Al Rams in August 2021, joining from GEMS Al Barsha National School where she was Head of Girls and Vice Principal for two years. Also new to the International Primary School Khuzam, in August 2021, is Juliette van Eerdewijk who joins RAKA from The International School of the Hague where she was Primary Principal. In addition, Alison Lloyd joins the British School Khuzam from Al Shohub School where she was Whole School Vice-Principal.

Despite its size and popularity, the school(s) remains firmly focused upon the individual progress and happiness of each student and aims, through its unique mix of curricula, to provide learning opportunities and outcomes that meet their individual needs and aspirations.

A particular focus of RAKA is with regard to wellbeing. The school explains that "Wellbeing relates to the interconnectedness of emotional, physical, health, cognitive, social and spiritual dimensions within the person. Wellbeing encompasses nurturing the self, providing pastoral care and helping others in the community. Wellbeing aims to help students become happy, confident and resilient lifelong learners who contribute to their communities. Learning experiences enable students to lead themselves and others, make healthy decisions, and meet challenges of the future with hope and optimism".

RAKA has a dedicated student wellbeing team consisting of counsellors, teachers and management. Students’ progress is monitored and supported in all areas.

In order to ensure that it is delivering academically and educationally in the broadest sense, RAK Academy completed a comprehensive self-study and international peer review as part of a continuous improvement process under the auspices of the Council of International Schools. In December 2016, the school was awarded full membership of the Council.  Additionally, the school is also inspected regularly by a team from British Schools Overseas whose inspections are based on the UK's OFSTED regime.  

Teachers are largely British qualified in the UK curriculum schools or of international backgrounds and appropriately qualified in the IB curriculum sections of the academy, with a low Teacher/Student Ratio 1 : 12 and a maximum class size of 25.

What about the curriculum?

The three British [Primary] Schools at Khuzam (1,400 students), Al Hamra (200 students), and Al Rams (175 students) as indicated by the name, follow the English National Curriculum from pre-KG (FS1) to Grade 5 (Year 6), whilst the International Primary School (1,200 students) follows the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Curriculum and the International Secondary School (875 students) follows the UK curriculum to IGCSE in Grade 10 and then offers the dual pathway of either AS and A Levels or the IB Diploma Programme in Grades 11 and 12.

The British curriculum Primary schools follow the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum in pre-KG and KG1 and learning is underpinned by the EYFS philosophy of offering activities that are planned and structured with an emphasis on play and motivation. Children have the opportunity to play, talk, experiment, and repeat and reflect.  Teachers plan for six areas of learning: Personal and social development, Communication, language, and literacy, Mathematical development, Knowledge and understanding of the world, Physical development and Creative development.

From Grades KG2 to 5, the curriculum is based upon the National Curriculum (NC) of England and Wales, adapted to the context of the UAE.

This internationally renowned curriculum is taught in over 180 countries worldwide. Core subjects are English, Mathematics and Science with additional Foundation subjects of Art, Design and Technology, Computing, Geography, History, Music and Physical Education.

The curriculum at the International Primary School - the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IB PYP) – is a research-based international curriculum with an emphasis on both academic achievement and students’ personal development that accommodates: local traditions and global events, promoting intercultural understandings; an inquiry and critical thinking approach studying knowledge in multiple integrated subjects; two world languages and cultures – English and Arabic; a caring, safe, and secure setting to develop social behaviour and emotional resilience.

Lastly, the International Secondary School Khuzam, students aged 11-14 years follow Key Stage 3 of the English National Curriculum. From ages 14-16 years, students choose elective subjects to study for a range of IGCSEs. Students can then choose either A-Levels or the IB Diploma Programme for the final two years to prepare for university and life after school.

Core subjects in Grades 6 to 8 included Arabic B & C, Art, Computer science, Design Technology, English, French, Geography, History, Music, Moral Education, Mathematics, Physical Education, Science, and Social Studies.

In Grades 9-10, core Arabic subjects include Arabic B, Islamic Studies A/B, and Social Studies in either Arabic or English. The English-based core curriculum includes IGCSE studies in English First Language, English Second Language, English Literature, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Global Citizenship. Physical Education is a non-examined core subject. Optional IGCSE subjects from which students may select are Art and Design, Business, Computer Science, Design Technology, French, Geography, History, Music, Physical Education and Spanish.

In Grades 11 and 12, students choosing the A Level option study 3 subjects each at AS and A Level. Options include Arabic, Biology, Business Studies, Chemistry, Computer Science, Design Technology, English Language, English Literature, French, Geography, History, Mathematics, Physics and Psychology.

Students wishing to complete their high school studies at the end of Grade 12 (2021), must achieve 2 D grades or higher at A-Level plus a minimum of 5 IGCSEs at Grade A*-E or higher (UK 9-3). This will enable students to gain the Ministry of Education (MoE) equivalency.

IB subject options for students choosing the Diploma route include Biology, Business Management, Computer Science, Chemistry, Design Technology, English Literature, Geography, History, Maths, Physics, Psychology, Spanish AB, Spanish/French Language B, Visual Arts English Language, Geography, Biology, Computer Science, History, Maths, Business Studies, Chemistry, English Literature, Psychology, French, Design and Technology.

Students choose from six subject blocks and subjects must include English, Mathematics, Science, a Language and Arts and a Humanities subject, with a minimum of three taken at the Higher level and usually three at the Lower level. Additionally students are required to undertake an Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge and CAS (Creativity, Action and Service).

RAKA offers a range of Extra-Curricular activities which are designed to develop and encourage student talents and interests, provide students with the opportunity to extend their learning beyond the classroom, and foster active and global citizenship. In addition to the mainstream programme all students are encouraged to participate in a wide range of extra-curricular activities such as art, music, sports, community action, and leadership opportunities designed to capture students’ interests and passions.
Schedules are updated every year to meet the needs and interests of students and promote their personal development and respond to the talents of teachers who arrive.

The programme operates through most of the school year starting from September to June, although some activities are condensed due to the weather conditions. The activities offered by the school are conducted by school staff according to their individual expertise or practice. The majority of these activities are free of charge.

From time to time, there are additional outside clubs that will use the school facilities to run modules. These are paid activities that generally run on the weekend or other afternoons and are offered by outside providers. Such activities include football, dance, ballet, netball, taekwondo, circuit training, and tennis.

What about support for students of Determination and those with Gifts and Talents?

RAK Academy welcome students of all abilities and background believing that all students should be provided with a safe environment in which they can enjoy learning and make outstanding progress. Students identified as needing additional support either receive targeted Special Educational Needs/Disability (SEND or Students of Determination) support from the RAKA Zone (SEND) Team or English as an Additional Language (EAL) support. RAK Academy also provides support to those students who are deemed as ‘More-Able’.

SEND students have Individualised Education Plans (IEP) that specify the structure of support, category of eligibility, the students’ areas of need and strengths, and interventions and goals with access a mainstream curriculum designed to challenge them academically and socially. Depending on need, students may receive support through withdrawal from lessons and/or in-class support.

RAKA has a SEND Coordinator who has created strong links with external agencies such as Educational Psychology, ABA Therapy, and Occupational Therapy. RAKA also ensures that screening tests for Access Arrangements are undertaken and in place, for all those students who require this provision, for both internal and public examinations.

The RAKA Zone includes two well-resourced classrooms, individual learning spaces, a sensory room and a functional skills area. A daily nurture club is also facilitated by the SENDCo and RAKA Zone Team each lunch time. Additional interventions run from 7.30am- 8.30am each morning.

What about academic achievement?

Unfortunately, if there is one area about which we would critique RAKA, it is the lack of transparency with regard to examination results.  Whilst we fully appreciate that examination results are not the be-all and end-all of a school's role, it is certainly an important one - particularly when a school does not regularly participate in an external inspection process to which parents have access. Having said this, RAKA does participate in the BSO inspections on a regular basis.

In 2014/15, 46% of pupils achieved A to C grades at AS level compared to 37% in 2014. Eight of the 15 subjects studied demonstrated value-added. Only 7 pupils sat A2 examinations. In the IGCSE, 44% of pupils gained 5 A* to C grades, including English and mathematics.

From the 9 pupils following the International Baccalaureate Diploma programme, 8 achieved the diploma with an average point score of 30. The highest score was 39 points. The average grade was 4.93, compared to a UAE average of 5.05 and a world average of 4.99. Results were in line with or above expectations in all but one subject.

In 2021, the school did publish some details of its IB results.  The Secondary school Grade 12 cohort consisted of 60 students.  The school did not confirm how many of this group were entered for the IB Diploma. 

In common with all UAE schools, students did not take any external examinations in 2019-20 or 2020-21 as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic.  Instead students were awarded Centre Assessed Grades (based on teachers' predictions), and the assessment of assignments that were submitted to and marked by IB examiners.

RAKA did reveal that all entrants for the IB Diploma achieved a pass, with 30% of students achieving over 40 points, their top student achieving 44 points out of a possible 45 (within the top 1% of students globally) and that the overall average point score for the school was 34.7 - above both UAE and Global averages.  However, without knowing the number of students involved, it is difficult to ascertain how great an achievement these results were, or whether they were the outcomes for a small and highly academic cohort - which in light of the promotion of scholarships for potential IBDP students, whereby the school covers 90% of the tuition fees - would seem to be the case.

For comparison, results from other UAE IB curriculum schools can be found here.

What the inspectors say

Whereas Abu Dhabi and Dubai (and latterly, although not published, Sharjah) schools participate in an annual or bi-annual school inspection process, this is not the case in the  Northern Emirates.

It is therefore praiseworthy that RAKA does ensure that it has international accreditations that enable parents, staff and students to read an objective assessment of the school's strengths and areas for improvement.

According to the British Schools Overseas inspection of 2019, 'RAK Academy (RAKA) meets all the standards for British Schools Overseas'. The inspection team commented "In a school the size and complexity of RAKA, it is not surprising there are many things to do".

The inspection report has many positive statements in regard to RAKA, noting that:

RAKA is a large and complex organisation that provides a quality of education and care that is usually at least satisfactory, and often good or excellent. Students’ behaviour is generally good and they have a strong sense of fairness and morality. Relationships between staff and students are good. Recently appointed senior staff are already having positive impact. The leadership is appropriately focussed on further school improvement, in key areas like the use of attainment.

The inspectors, however, identified one overriding recommendation that covers all sites and all ages:

Improve the quality of learning and teaching of English as an additional language (EAL), for example by considering:

  • maintaining clear accurate and useful information on data that is relevant to EAL learners and their teachers, including:
    - age
    - length of time in RAKA
    - first language educational history
    - first language literacy
    - English language proficiency
    - English-medium schooling experience
    - academic track record
    - family and community circumstances
    - at least an initial profiling system
    - objective rating scales of EAL performance, over time
  • ensuring it is a key focus in all lessons, no matter what the subject is
    - focussing strongly on the specialist provision for EAL students who speak English at a low level, Including the appointment of specialist leaders and teachers
    - strengthening the early support for students who have EAL needs
    - auditing and acting upon the needs of all staff who teach EAL students

It seems likely that the changes to the leadership which are taking place in three of the five schools in August 2021 are specifically designed to address this particular concern.

Commenting on the school further, inspectors found its strengths to be:

  • The curriculum is broad, balanced and appropriate for the students.
  • The moral education programme has been a positive improvement to the quality of education being provided.
  • In the best lessons, students are motivated, enthused and challenged in their learning; the use of data to set targets is notable in these classes.
  • Teaching in early years is strong.
  • There have been excellent improvements in the last few months to the manner with which students’ attainment and progress data is analysed, especially in the secondary school.
  • Spiritual, moral, social and cultural development across the academy is good.
  • Some of the recent initiatives to further improve standards are already having a positive impact.
  • All five sites run very well on a day-to-day basis.
  • Many of the administrative staff offer excellent support to the teachers, parents and students.
  • There is a real culture of school improvement – the impact of the school improvement partners and coaches is already notably positive.
  • Workshops for parents are a popular and useful initiative.
  • Parents are very positive about the school, on all sites – one reported that ‘…we are an international family…’.

If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we would strongly recommend that you do so in order to understand the reasons behind the inspection team's comments - you will find it here.

What about the Facilities?

Facilities are extensive - as would be required for a school of this size. The original campus cover over an astonishing 23 acres in total. They include 196 classrooms, 12 science laboratories, three libraries, a three-storey media centre, two theatres, two gymnasiums, two swimming pools, two grass soccer fields, four tennis courts and outside covered play areas, and three cafeterias. There are extensive IT suites on both sites, including over 700 networked computers school-wide and Smart Board technology in most classrooms.

The Al Hamra and Al Rams schools both opened in 2018 and facilities include an auditorium, medical centre with nurses and doctor’s room, music and technology suites, cafeteria, covered outdoor play areas and an indoor sports area.  The Khuzam Primary campus includes a swimming pool, theatre, computer suites and library together with outdoor equipment and the sizeable outdoor grounds. 

The Secondary school has between 6 and 8 classes per year level with a range of facilities which include 60+ classrooms, theatre and music rooms, gymnasium and sports facilities, two computer suites, a huge library and a campus wide wireless network.  A further 7 classrooms and a second cafeteria have been added to the top floor of the school to accommodate the growing enrolment. There is also a coffee shop onsite and a large car park situated at the front of the school.

The Buzz

WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has received very limited feedback from parents at RAK Academy.  15 parents who have responded to our School Survey have rated the school with a score of 2.3/5 or a 46% approval rating. 

Based on the responses, it would seem that  many respondents are parents who are somewhat disaffected with the school, citing fees, academic achievement (including the need for additional tuition outside school) and communication among the areas with which they are either partially or completely dissatisfied.  As a result, whilst 34% would recommend RAKA to other parents, the balance were either unsure (13%) or would not (53%). 

Given the low number of responses, if you are a parent, teacher or student at RAKA, and would like to share your opinions and experience with other potential members of your community, please complete our Survey.

RAK Academy says that it believes strong parental involvement in schools is a key part of students’ success. The Academy values and welcomes working in partnership with parents to ensure that the right support and intervention is in place to support student’s needs for them to reach their full potential. The school encourages follow-ups with each child’s subject/class teacher in order to identify areas where the child is facing challenges, attendance at Parents Information Days/Evenings, as well as monitoring and supporting their learning at home.

The school community is also involved through a range of activities, interviews, and workshops, including workshops for parents on different curriculum areas, and on health and safety. The community also to joins the school for events such as Flag Day and National Day, Sports Days and for singing winter festival songs.

Our View

Despite the somewhat negative feedback to our School Survey from parents, we believe that RAK Academy without question is one of the most effective schools in the Northern Emirates.  With strong leadership, clearly improving academic standards are already being seen by the BSO inspection team members and we would expect this only to continue as new individual school leaders come on board.

We would certainly encourage the school to be more open in terms of the academic successes of its students - after all the latter deserve to see these celebrated - particularly since we believe that families from other nearby emirates might be more inclined to do the journey north against the traffic, if they knew that the school represents a genuinely better option at a more affordable price than many in Sharjah and Dubai.

What about the fees?

Tuition fees start at a very affordable AED 15,500  for Pre-K rising to AED 38,000  for grade 12.

There is a one-off admission fee of AED 5,000 on offer of a place, and an installment payable before school starts in August which varies from grade to grade, but forms part of the first of three termly payments. There are also additional book fees which range from AED 50 to AED 790 in Primary, and from AED 1,185 to AED 1,240 in Secondary school. Transport and uniform fees are also additional.

RAKA also offers a scholarship scheme for particularly talented Grade 10 students who can apply to join the IB stream.  The fees are covered to 90% for Grades 11 and 12. 

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