United Arab Emirates / Abu Dhabi / Mussafah / Royal American School

Royal American School Review

Royal American School (formerly Al Maali International School) is, as the name suggests, a US curriculum school located in the Mussafah area of Abu Dhabi.
At a glance
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Acceptable
Curricula taught
Availability 2021/22
No data
Availability 2022/23
No data
Annual fee average
AED 13,500
Annual fees
AED 10,230–17,800
Price band help
Value
Status
Open
Teacher turnover help
5%
Principal
Ms Kim Migneron
Community
Main student nationality
Egypt
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Royal American School
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Acceptable
Curricula taught
Availability 2021/22
No data
Availability 2022/23
No data
Annual fee average
AED 13,500
Annual fees
AED 10,230–17,800
Price band help
Value
Status
Open
Teacher turnover help
5%
Principal
Ms Kim Migneron
Community
Main student nationality
Egypt
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Royal American School (formerly Al Maali International School) is, as the name suggests, a US curriculum school located in the Mussafah area of Abu Dhabi.

The story so far...

Royal American School originally started life as Al Maali International School. It was originally founded as a Villa School in Al Bateen, Abu Dhabi City. Its current premises in Musaffah were opened in September 2009 and students moved in stages from the old site. All were located on the Musaffah site by September 2010.

In common with a number of Abu Dhabi schools, the change in name appears to have been designed to throw off a less than glittering academic history, and to offer the opportunity for a new start.

The school was initially rated Very Weak (the lowest rating) by the ADEK inspection teams in its earliest inspections (in 2012/13, 2013/14 and 2015/16), before managing to achieve a Weak rating school in 2017/18.  Such a history usually results in the affected school being unable to accept new students until significant improvement has taken place.

The change of name appears to have taken place with the inspection of 2019-20, when the revived Royal American School achieved an Acceptable rating - the minimum expected by ADEK. The effort involved in achieving this upgrade should not be underestimated. 

The school website details its Vision, Mission and Core Values.

Its Vision is “Innovative education for a knowledge, pioneering, and global society”.
The school's Mission is “to equip its graduates with 21st-century skills and a high level of awareness of themselves, their community, and the world. It works to ensure they have the ability to make the right decisions, are actively responsible, and have essential world-class skills that allow them to pursue their academic and professional goals.”

The school states that “The Royal American School prepares students to understand, contribute to, and succeed in a rapidly changing society, thus making the world a better and more just place. We will ensure that our students develop both the skills that a sound education provides and the competencies essential for success and leadership in the emerging creative economy. We will also lead in generating practical and theoretical knowledge that enables people to better understand our world and improve conditions for local and global communities.”

The Core values of the school are:

  • Care and respect for all in the school community;
  • Fostering relationships where all in the school feel valued;
  • Effective learning through high standards of teaching;
  • Enhanced experiences and opportunities through a desire for lifelong learning;
  • Recognizing and celebrating diversity throughout the school community;
  • An honest and transparent culture for all;
  • A safe environment where students are free from harm and can take risks as active learners;
  • Creative and stimulating environments in all learning spaces;
  • Enhancing the future performance of all students through reflection and evaluation;
  • The development of the intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being of each individual through a curriculum which celebrates cultural diversity and recognizes the global family.

The school accepts students between the ages of 4 to 18 and offers a US curriculum, together with the Arabic, Islamic Studies and Moral Education requirements of the Ministry of Education, having originally been a Ministry of Education curriculum school that offered a subsidiary 'textbook-based' US curriculum.  This also changed with the rebirth of the school.

Nowadays, according to the school's new, but poorly populated, website, it has a total of 2,240 students (a significant increase from the 1,018 that attended the school at the time of its last inspection in November 2019). The school is mixed gender in its lower grades before offering single gender classes from Grade 5 onwards in line with ADEK requirements. |At the time of the last inspection, the school's students were divided across 21% in KG,  44% in Primary/Elementary, 21% in the Middle School and 14% in the High School. The largest nationality groups of students were 36% Egyptian, 13% Jordanian and 11% Syrian.  There were no Emirati students and only 1% of students had been identified with additional learning needs or Gifts and Talents. 

The school is now led by Kim Migneron, who is the Principal of the Royal American School. ​She has worked in the United Arab Emirates for the last 20 years within education and, in her introduction to the school, says that she is "very proud to be taking up the position of leadership within the school, which already feels like family." 

Ms. Migneron has an interesting history, having qualified with a BA in Education in Canada. After three years teaching experience in Canada, she moved to the UK, where she taught for almost 12 years.  In 2002, she joined GEMS Education as Assistant Principal of Cambridge International School in Dubai and during the six years that she worked at CIS, Ms. Migneron also completed a Masters' degree in Education from Bath University. She then undertook a number of roles within GEMS, prior to joining Creative British School in Abu Dhabi in 2014 as CEO and Principal, where she remained for four years. She had been involved in preparing the latter school for its first ADEK inspection. Ms. Migneron has also worked on a number of consultancy projects as a Teaching and Learning Facilitator.  The role at Royal American School appears to be her first post in a US curriculum environment.

Little information is available about the staff of the school, other than that it employs 60 qualified teachers and a further number of teaching assistants.  Teachers are said to have secure knowledge of the curriculum.  At the time of the last inspection, the teacher:student ratio was 1:15, but with the increase in student numbers and a disproportionate growth in teachers, this number will potentially have increased significantly.

What about the curriculum?

According to ADEK, Royal American School follows the American Common Core curriculum and Northwest Evaluation Association approved Oregon State Standards. The curriculum is said to be relatively broad and balanced, although the focus is more on acquisition of knowledge than skills.

In preparation for external benchmarking tests such as TIMSS, the school uses results from previous initiatives such as 'question a day' and mock PISA tests, and has enrolled students in MAP (the US-based Measures of Academic Performance), to prepare them for future success in international assessments.

Extra-curricular activities cater for students’ talents and the career aspirations of senior students, with provision of break-time and after-school activities such as drama and robotics, horse riding, swimming, tennis and field trips, though no further information is provided about ECAs.

Grade 12 students meet with trained staff to discuss career guidance, future opportunities and higher education pathways, although careers’ guidance for senior students is not routinely monitored.

What about the facilities?

The school occupies purpose‐built premises on an enclosed campus; The school is described by ADEK as of an adequate size with both indoor and outdoor facilities, including a gymnasium and swimming pool. There are specialist rooms for art, ICT, science, two libraries and canteen facilities. Shaded areas are provided outdoors and children in KG have their own designated outdoor space. 

The school had been renovated and updated prior to the 2019-20 inspection, although inspectors noted that some classrooms were too small to accommodate increased student numbers and provision for disabled students was not of the required standard.

What the inspectors say

The introduction to the 2019-20 report noted that, since the previous inspection, the MoE curriculum section had been removed and a large minority of students had recently joined the school. A principal, vice-principal and 12 new teachers had been appointed in the previous year (indicating significant investment on the part of the owners). Teachers’ responsibilities and class sizes had increased. A governing body was constituted in January 2019.

The school was rated Acceptable. It had made good progress in addressing almost all of the recommendations from the previous inspection.

Summarising the key developments since the previous inspection in regard to the six key performance standards, the report notes that:
"Changes introduced by the new senior leadership team (SLT), have improved many aspects of the school including students’ personal and social development and their health and safety. They have improved teaching and school’s leadership and management, and this has led to overall improvement in students’ achievement."

Students' achievement remains acceptable overall. Weak phases in Islamic education and social studies are now acceptable. Students' progress in mathematics, science, physical education (PE) and English in High (School) are now good due to better qualified staff and resourcing. Writing and reading skills are now adequate.

An integrated curriculum and provision of a more active learning environment for kindergarten (KG) children has improved their progress in social, as well as mathematics and science skills. Students are beginning to develop critical thinking skills through improved teacher questioning, but less effectively in Primary. Clubs and timetabled sessions allow students to express creativity, but further opportunities are needed to enhance innovation skills, particularly in lessons. Opportunities for independent learning and research are provided in upper phases in English, mathematics and science, but inconsistently across the school.

[In terms of Teaching and Assessment], lessons in Primary are predominantly teacher-directed.  Middle leaders use assessment data in tracking and monitoring student progress. Teachers' use of assessment data to design lessons is inconsistent. Teachers' expectations are not always high enough to challenge higher achievers.

[As regards Leadership and Management], Senior leaders’ monitoring of the impact of improvement strategies is not yet rigorous. Attendance and punctuality are very good overall. The refurbished site and effective supervision provide a welcoming, safe learning environment. Further upgrade of facilities is needed to allow access and support for all learners. A new governing board is overseeing implementation of a well-considered recovery plan.

Perhaps the most significant comments is the following:
"New leaders make learning a priority. They have taken the school on a journey from weak to acceptable in the space of a year. " In recognition of this achievement, the inspection noted that "Their capacity to improve the school further is good."  This is a highly positive evaluation, indicating that the school has the potential to achieve a good standard of education (above the current Acceptable rating).

The inspection team defined the key areas of strength of Royal American School as:

  • Students’ personal and social development.
  • Teachers’ secure subject knowledge and caring relationships with students.
  • Improved health, safety, care and protection of students and very strong attendance.
  • Senior leaders’ commitment, clear vision and improved partnership with parents.

The much lengthier and more complex key areas for improvement identified by the inspection team were as follows:

  • Improve achievement in all subjects by:
    - raising teachers’ expectations
    - furthering all students’ Arabic and English reading and writing skills through an integrated plan
    - developing students’ specific skills for each subject. For example: scientific investigation in science and mental arithmetic in mathematics;
    - strengthening and applying of ICT skills;
    - extending writing and reading opportunities in French;
    - providing more opportunities for practising ‘Tajweed’ rules in Quran recitation;
    - promoting standard Arabic at school level and insisting that all students use standard Arabic in speaking and writing.
  • Improve the quality of teaching and assessment across the school to further develop students’ independent learning and innovation skills by:
    - developing teachers' use of resources and activities to extend students' higher order thinking
    - creating more opportunities for independent learning using technology
    - providing more opportunities in lessons to develop innovation
    - encouraging students to set and monitor their progress in learning
    - implementing assessment systems to measure all students’ achievement against national and international benchmarks
    - ensuring rigorous internal assessment of all subjects
    - monitoring of teachers that is more rigorously based on learners' progress.
  • Improve provision and outcomes for students with special educational needs (SEN) and gifted and talented students (G&T) by:
    - adapting lessons better to meet identified learning needs, especially for the higher achievers
    - implementing systems to identify G&T students
    - improving support and challenge for SEN and G&T students within class
    - using assessment data more consistently to identify gaps and develop individualised learning plans, especially in Primary
    - providing appropriate resources and facilities to support learning in all phases and for all students

If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly recommend you to do so in order to understand the details behind the ratings - you will find it here.

The Buzz

As yet, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has not received any feedback to our Parent Survey for Royal American School.  

If you are a parent, teacher or student at Royal American School and would like to share your experience and opinions with other potential members of your community, please take a survey here.

Feedback from the ADEK inspection report notes that "Partnerships with parents are good. Communication and reporting systems ensure parents are well-informed of students’ progress in most subjects and can contribute to school life."

Our View

Whilst in general we prefer not to comment on schools for whom there is no direct parental feedback, there is no question that Royal American School appears to be a very different institution compared with its predecessor. 

The achievement of the leadership, management, Governors and owners in bringing the school from a poorly rated and 'failing' school to one which, at a minimum, meets the regulators' requirements in the space of a year (although no inspection took place in 2017-18, the school would have been closely monitored by ADEK), is a significant achievement.  That investment continues to take place, with the appointment of a highly experienced and qualified Principal in Kim Migneron, is clearly a further positive sign.

This school is one that its fee level, will find it hard to make substantial investments in its buildings, infrastructure and staffing, but despite this, such investment seems to be taking place. We will be interested to see the outcome of the next ADEK inspection which was due to take place in 2021-22, but has been rescheduled as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic.  No new date has yet been released.

What about the fees?

Fees at Royal American School range from AED 10,230 in KG1 to AED 17,800 in Grade 12.  Additional fees are required for books (between AED 1,124 and AED 3,100 dependent on grade), uniform and bus fees. 

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