Reach British School is a co-educational school in Abu Dhabi for FS1 to Year 12. First opened in 2014, it has since grown rapidly to over 1,450 students aged 3-17, from over 60 different nationalities.
Reach British School joined a global group of English curriculum schools called the International Schools Partnership in January 2016, and also has new a Principal, Dene Bright.
The school currently has approximately 1,450 students, 58 percent of whom are Emirati. Approximately 60 other nationalities are represented, including expat-Arab and Asian families and a small number of Europeans. The eventual capacity of the school is 2,100.
The school's mission is stated as follows:
"Our mission is to offer a meaningful education for students from different cultures and origins. We must equip them with the knowledge and skills for a successful future after they leave school. Their learning must be both relevant and purposeful. Besides acquiring literacy and numeracy skills and competence with ICT, we also endeavour to provide a holistic education to students, so that they grow into confident, caring and contributing citizens. They must also understand the vital need to make our world a sustainable place to live. The world is a competitive place and only an understanding of the competition ahead will give them the ability to fulfil their potential for success".
Reach British School currently teaches to Year 11. (aged 3 - 17 years) with Year 11 having opened in September 2018. The school teaching is co-educational and there has been some discussion as to whether this will continue through the Secondary school, or whether classes will be split into separate boys and girls streams. The Principal feels that the school teaching should be co-educational throughout (with the exception of PE as per local norms), and as is usual in UK curriculum schools.
With 30 students per class planned, it is important that adequate staffing is in place; there is currently one teacher and teaching assistant in FS1 to year 1 and a teacher and shared teaching assistant in years 2 and 3. There is a strong demand among the students for English as an Additional Language support, and the school is ensuring that additional recruitment is taking place to cover this requirement.
Similarly, additional staff to support children with Special Educational Needs are also being recruited, now that the requirements are known. With approximately 100 students identified as in need of SEND provision, this is a significant minority. All staff are native-English speakers, the majority from the UK. A total of 106 staff and teaching assistants support children's learning with a staff:student ratio of 1:23 in Foundation years and 1:25 in other year groups - this is on the high side.
The school is located on a large site in Baniyas East, close to the E11 highway towards Mafraq. The school is constructed around a central courtyard, which is shaded. On the two longer sides of the courtyard are teaching blocks; at the furthest end is the Foundation unit (a single-storey, independent purpose-built block) and at the opposite end is an area that houses a multi-purpose hall, 25m swimming pool and the main entrance and reception areas.
Unfortunately, although the school offers a great deal of internal space in large size class-rooms, it lacks external green space, with outdoor play sessions and sports all taking place on the concrete central courtyard area. In addition, it seems that the design and resourcing of the school is not yet where it needs to be.
The latest ADEK inspection report notes that there is a requirement for specific improvements to premises and resources, including the provision of science laboratories and a wider range of resources to enable investigative and practical activities to support the Science curriculum.
Continued development of library resources to support the development of students’ reading and research skills, and their enjoyment in Arabic and English, and continued development of resources to enable students’ access to ICT in all subjects, together with the development of facilities and resources to enhance the creative arts curriculum provision in all phases, were also identified as important areas for improvement.
What the inspectors say
The latest Irtiqaa report (2016-17) marks the school as Acceptable, a significant step up from its previous band C6 rating in 2014-15, which deemed the school's performance as unsatisfactory and "in need of significant improvement." The latest report notes that Senior leaders have secure understanding of curriculum and best practice in education. "The Principal provides strong direction and a firm commitment to the vision and aims of the school. Senior leaders provide purposeful educational leadership and guidance and have created supportive relationships with staff, and high expectations in raising the quality of teaching and learning. This is leading to improved morale and a drive for continuous improvement". However, the ADEK report also noted teacher turnover of 30% in 2016 - evidence perhaps that stability has not yet been achieved in this respect.
The most recent inspection identified the following as key areas of strength: children’s attainment and progress in the early years, and the development of English language skills throughout the school, students’ positive relationships with each other and staff, fostered by effective procedures for protection, care, guidance and support; improvement in student behaviour and teachers’ increasingly effective use of more detailed lesson planning.
The school has made acceptable progress in addressing the recommendations from the previous inspection report. Students’ attainment and progress in English, Mathematics and Science has improved. Students’ achievement is acceptable overall. Most students attain levels in line with curriculum standards and make acceptable and better progress, including those with special educational needs (SEN) and those who are gifted and talented (G&T), although meeting the needs of students identified with SEN and those with G&T is a continuing area for development.
The school has raised the quality and consistency of teaching in most subjects and year levels. However, achievement in Islamic education, Science and Mathematics is weak in the middle phase. Arabic is weak in both primary and middle phases. In FS, most children’s attainment and progress is good in most areas of learning. Teaching is acceptable and better in most lessons. Teachers plan more effectively for different learning needs and, especially in the Foundation Stage, now support children who speak English as an additional language (EAL) more successfully.
A key focus of the leadership has clearly been ongoing professional development which has ensured that teachers now have a clear understanding of expected age appropriate curriculum levels. Processes for measuring and tracking student progress are now more consistent. Marking of students’ work and use of feedback by teachers is also steadily improving. More consistent implementation of effective behaviour management strategies is resulting in the corresponding improvement in attitudes and behaviour.
Students’ growth and personal development is fostered well by the attentive implementation of effective procedures for protection, care, guidance and support. Positive relationships prevail among students from diverse cultural backgrounds. Students demonstrate appreciation of and respect for the values of Islam and the heritage and culture of the UAE. Parents are supportive of the school, and particularly appreciate the school’s open-door approach and its prompt responses to queries.
The school has established a fully representative governing body during the last school year. Processes are now more rigorous in holding the principal and senior leaders accountable for raising the quality of education provided by the school.
The inspection identified the following as key areas for improvement: students’ achievement particularly in Islamic education and Arabic, the quality of teaching in all subjects in primary and middle phases, consistency in the use of assessment to plan for the needs of all students and opportunities in lessons in all subjects for students to develop skills in critical thinking.
For expat families seeking to have real access to and involvement with local families in a UK curriculum school, Reach British School offers an interesting opportunity. However, it would be significantly more interesting if it could continue its improvement and move into the higher performing bands.
Fees for Reach British School currently range from AED 22,800 for FS1 and 2, rising to AED 26,600 for Years 1 through to 6, AED 32,900 for Years 7 - 8, Years 9 and 10 are AED 39,800 and Year 11 AED 46,800.
Fees are paid in three installments, per ADEK rules. The school also offers transportation, which costs an additional AED 5,000, covering the bus journey both to and from school.
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