The older sibling (in terms of provision, not age), Repton School Abu Dhabi's Fry campus caters to children from Years 2 to 4 (Prep School), through Junior (Years 5-6) and Senior Schools on a purpose-built site at the heart of Reem Island. The original Foundation School, which opened in 2013 remains open, and is located close to the new school which opened in September 2017.
The story so far...
Repton Fry Campus is the Junior and Senior School for Repton Abu Dhabi. The school is effectively a 'through school' on two campuses: Repton Foundation School (Rose Campus) caters for children from Foundation Stage to Year 1.
Repton Fry Campus caters to children aged from 6 (year 2) to 18 (year 13). The Junior School incorporates years 2 to 6 (including Pre-Prep for years 2, 3 and 4), whilst the Senior School covers the traditional Secondary School years from years 7-13. Currently open to Year 10, this new school is progressively growing into the older year groups.
Currently accommodating some 523 students and expecting more than 800 in September 2019, Repton Fry Campus opened with a decided focus on students at the younger end of the spectrum, with six classes each in Years 2 and 3, 4 classes in Year 4, 3 in Year 5, two each in years 6 and 7 and 1 each in Years 8 and 9.
Average class sizes are 20 students with a maximum of 24 planned. 24 in a class is perhaps higher than a typical premium school where we would expect to see a absolute maximum class size of 20. However, it is likely to be sometime before these numbers are reached in all year groups.
Teachers appear to be satisfied at the school - staff turnover, at 8%, is very much on the low side compared with the UAE average of 20-22%. This is a good sign in terms of the relative stability of the school staffing.
In line with the policy of the longer established Foundation school, almost all staff are recruited from the UK (with the exception of specialist language teachers) and are required to have appropriate teaching qualifications plus experience without exception. The mix of student nationalities is somewhat broader; UAE nationals represent the largest single group at 19%, UK nationals follow at 10%, whilst Indian (8%), US (7%) and Canadian (5%) passport holders are among the other larger nationality groups. Overall, over 70 nationalities are represented within the school. There is a slightly larger male (57%) than female ratio (43%).
A particular focus of both Repton Abu Dhabi campuses is in the provision of support for students with additional learning needs (SEND) or who are Gifted and Talented (G&T). The inclusion department, which works across both campuses, has a team of 10 staff including school counsellors and support assistants. Staff are trained to work with students with a variety of additional needs including Autism, Downs Syndrome and ADHD among others. The team works in a consultancy role with class teachers and specialists to ensure that all students have access to quality teaching initially. Where further support is required, extension or enrichment activities, needs assessment, individual targets and action plans are formulated to meet the student's individual needs. Unusually, this service is provided free of charge.
Repton Abu Dhabi is the third school, and the second in the UAE, bearing the Repton name. According to the school, the partnership between all three schools is very strong and there are many initiatives which bring genuine meaning and substance to the links between Repton School Derbyshire, with its 450 year history, Repton School Dubai and Repton School Abu Dhabi.
Two members of the governing body of Repton UK are permanent members of the Repton Abu Dhabi board, with the aim of ensuring the greatest possible coherence between the two schools at all levels. There have been student exchanges between the UK school and Repton Dubai, and plans are underway for joint sports tours and trips. Similar plans are under discussion for Repton Abu Dhabi. Common in-service training initiatives for teachers are being developed and there is a regular interchange of ideas between staff in the three schools.
There are striking similarities between the schools, in uniforms, house names and traditions, institutional language and in fact everything that goes into producing a common ethos and environment some three thousand miles apart. For those families relocating back to the UK, or considering UK Boarding for their child, both Repton and Foremarke Hall (Repton’s preparatory school) offers a continuity of curriculum and culture.
What about the curriculum?
For a school that aims to be wrapped in the traditions of its 450 year old UK namesake, Repton School Abu Dhabi has a noticeably non-traditional vision:
“Our vision is to be the premier technology school in the UAE ensuring that all our pupils are equipped and stimulated to engage in our ever more technical world with confidence and flair”.
A Repton education, according to Repton Abu Dhabi, stands for an academically selective school with high aspirations that never loses focus of the individual child. The school aims to "blend the pursuit of excellence with a broadening of the mind; the fulfilment of succeeding as an individual with the pleasure of working as part of a team; and an investment in self-discovery with an awareness of others". This is a holistic approach "or ‘wholeness’ that personifies a Repton education". It certainly has a more traditional ring.
Children follow the English National curriculum in the Junior School until Year 6. In Pre-Prep (Years 2-4), English and STEM skills are a key focus, with Science and Computing being other core subjects. Repton Abu Dhabi was recognised as the first Apple Distinguished School in the UAE and innovation is a common thread running through school life. Digital technology plays a vital role in all subjects, with each child using their own iPad throughout their life in the school. This becomes a progressive ePortfolio of children’s work, and parents are sent regular updates on their child’s progress electronically. The focus on STEAM - Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths - is very much at the core of the curriculum throughout Repton Abu Dhabi.
In keeping with the UAE Ministry of Education requirements, Arabic is also taught as a core subject. Muslim children are also taught Islamic Studies, while UAE Social Studies are taught formally from Year 1 onwards. The school endeavours to weave Emirati culture through all curricular subjects. Given that the percentage of Emirati children attending the Foundation school is among the highest groups, this focus is not surprising and well advised.
To develop well-rounded children, French, Art, Music, Physical Education (PE) and Swimming are taught as part of the core curriculum. As would be expected, language subjects are taught by specialist teachers with the expectation that all pupils should be developing secure conversational skills in both Arabic and French by the time they leave the Junior School. Regular homework is set in all core subjects to support and extend children’s learning, and to instill self-discipline and independent study.
Music and the performing arts are viewed as a vital component of the school and the development of a fully rounded child. The children enjoy specialist music lessons and regular opportunities are created for pupils to perform, and develop their own confidence to both their peers and a wider audience, through regular assemblies and shows. Throughout the school art work is displayed from pupils in all age ranges. Pupils are taught to create in a variety of media as well as being given specific guidance on technique.
Sport has long been at the heart of quality UK independent schools and this is also the case at Repton Abu Dhabi. From FS1 onwards, pupils are taught by specialist PE teachers and this is integral to the Fry campus. Children participate in games and swimming during their normal timetable and are able to add one of the many additional options as part of the after school activity programme.
The school is a member of the Abu Dhabi International Sports Association (ADISSA) leagues and we are told that last year 164 students participated in seven teams across the disciplines. Repton also hosts an annual Emirati Boys Only Swimming Gala, swimming lessons for the public, Adissa Swim Galas, tennis lessons and tennis and football unified lessons for SEN students. Many students participate in community sporting events, such as the Abu Dhabi Marathon.
The school currently offers over 180 Extra-curricular activities; some provided by Repton staff free of charge and others are paid for and provided by the school’s partners Gulf Star and IMI.
Repton Abu Dhabi also offers international trips to Switzerland and other European countries and is currently considering further away locations, such as New Zealand, for sports, cultural and service initiatives.
As the school begins to grow its Secondary section from 2019, it intends to offer a full range of IGCSE’s, in addition to A Levels for Sixth Form. This diverges from the path taken by Repton Dubai, which offers the IB Diploma programme in Years 12 and 13. In Years 7-9, students are taught core subjects (Maths, English and Science) in ability groups and non-core subjects in mixed ability groups. At the end of Year 9, students, after participating in a full guidance programme, choose their IGCSE options and will follow these over a two year period. At the end of Year 11, (Grade 10), students who achieve a minimum of 6 passes at IGCSE at grade B or above will be invited to join the Sixth Form to follow the full A Level programme.
What about facilities?
As would be expected with a brand new campus in an area under development, facilities are impressive. The school encompasses a total built up area of 25,000 sqm and houses state-of-the-art facilities including a six-lane 25-meter indoor swimming pool, two regular sized gymnasiums and one 40x20m Indoor Futsal Gymnasium as well as four shaded rooftop tennis courts. There is also a sky-court/dining area with capacity for 400+ students as well as a central library, in addition to the art centre, design and technology rooms, music halls, science laboratories and many educational learning spaces.
The specific focus on STEAM subjects within the school means that the technology resources are particularly impressive. These include a robotics lab equipped with drones, 3D printers, flight simulators, spherical robots and swivl devices among others.
In terms of competitors, Repton Abu Dhabi will have some catching up to do. Whilst the reputation of the Foundation School (now offering places for students from FS1 to Year 1 only) has grown following its ADEK inspection in 2015-16 and again in 2017-18, when it was rated Very Good, it has yet to show how well it will do as a Secondary School. The school is also inspected on an annual basis by Repton UK key staff who carry out Quality Assurance Visits (QAV) to ensure that standards are being maintained.
Obvious competitors include Cranleigh (located not far away on Saadiyat Island) who have already opened their Sixth Form, and also Brighton College, both of which have recently upgraded to Outstanding. These schools also have strong and established relationships with the UK "Mother" schools. Both offer UK A Levels at Sixth Form.
It will be interesting to see how, as something of a late-comer, Repton Abu Dhabi’s Junior and Senior School perform both in terms of ADEK’s inspection of the new, much larger school and in terms of attracting students.
Fees are currently AED 61,000 for all year groups from FS1 to Year 8, rising to AED 70,000 for years 9 - 11 and AED 74,000 for years 12 and 13. These compare with favourably with Brighton College (whose fees are very similar), and are significantly lower than Cranleigh, whose fees range from AED 80,000 to AED 96,000 for the same year groups.
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