The Sheikh Zayed Academy for Boys is a US curriculum school in central Abu Dhabi. Although predominantly attended by Emirati students, it is open to other nationalities. The school is highly rated, achieving a Very Good rating from ADEK on its second inspection which it repeated with the 2021-22 inspection.
The Sheikh Zayed Academy for Boys (SZPAB) was founded in 2015, and has built upon the success and reputation of The Sheikh Zayed Academy for Girls which was established in 2000 to fulfil the vision of the Late President, H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. As an inclusive school, SZPAB aims to provide the highest quality of holistic education and development.
In January 2021, it was announced that Neil Matthews, formerly Principal of GEMS Firstpoint School in Dubai, would be joined the Academy as the new Principal from May 2021. Within months of his appointment, ADEK again awarded a Very Good rating to the school, in the first post-pandemic inspection.
The school accepts both boys and girls from KG1 to Grade 3, and boys only from Grades 4 to 12. Although the vast majority of students are from the local Emirati community, the school offers places to other nationalities.
Maintaining an appreciation for the UAE's international community and world at large, the school’s vision aims to secure the future of the UAE by "providing strong community role-models who understand their heritage and traditions and are also equipped with the skills and life-long learning dispositions necessary to embrace the challenges of tomorrow and to take on leading roles."
At the time of the most recent ADEK inspection, in 2021-22, some 1,340 students attended the school with 93% of students UAE nationals, and the remaining students from Jordan, Egypt and the USA. Close to 6% of students have been identified with some form of additional learning need. ADEK's inspectors found, in the 2017-18 inspection, that "the identification and support of SEN students is an example of best practice."
Students are taught by some 130 teachers (mainly from the UK, despite this being a US curriculum school), supported by a further 43 teaching assistants. A teacher:student ratio of 1:11 should ensure that students receive individualised attention and curriculum enhancements where required. Although teacher turnover at 19% appears to be on the high side, this appears to be driven by recruitment of additional staff, rather than staff leaving the school.
SZPAB offers a US curriculum following the Massachusetts State Common Core Standards. The school is accredited by NEASC, the New England Association of School and Colleges, which ensures that the High School Diploma awarded to Grade 12 students is recognised and accepted at US colleges and universities.
The school says that it is "an American Curriculum school, with a strong Arabic and Islamic approach, with emphasis on local culture and awareness and with programs such as UAE National Studies and My Identity." Its aim is summed up in the school’s motto: "Honoring the past. Educating for the future."
In Kindergarten, the emphasis is on play based learning and includes a strong focus on developing reading and numeracy skills, to make sure that students are ready for the demands of the primary years.
From Grade 1, students study core subjects of English Language Arts, Mathematics and Science, together with Social Studies. These traditional subjects are complemented by studies in Art, Music, Drama, ICT (and French from Grade 6). Great emphasis is placed on students learning Arabic, Islamic Studies and UAE Social Studies. The school has been recognized as an Apple Distinguished School for 2018–2021 for its innovative integration of iPads to enhance learning which is linked to the Computer Explorers Club. The ADEK inspection report for 2017-18 notes that the school's "highly innovative use of learning technology is an example of best practice."
In addition, the school runs a range of special programmes designed to further develop leadership and innovation skills, as well as a greater knowledge of their country’s traditions and religion. These include The Leadership Curriculum, The My Identity Programme, and Qu͛ran memorisation programme, with an annual opportunity to travel to Mecca (after Umrah).
However, the focus is not purely academic, with a strong emphasis placed on sport, including football and swimming. Older students can participate in an annual international ski trip.
Private music lessons are also available and include Piano, Vocals, Strings (violin, cello), Woodwind (recorder, flute, saxophone, clarinet), Brass (trumpet, horn, euphonium, trombone, tuba) and Percussion (orchestral, drum kit).
In 2017-18, the ADEK inspectors found that "The range of curricular and extracurricular choices is outstanding and there are very good links between areas of learning."
Between Grades 2 and 10 SZPAB uses standardized MAP testing to monitor the progress of students in advance of their commencement of their High School Diploma studies. Students in Grade 8 also participate in the PSAT tests. The school has also introduced a specialized university and career counselling program.
SZPAB is housed in a purpose-built modern building with a range of high quality indoor and outdoor facilities. Indoor facilities include five Science laboratories, two LEGO innovation Rooms, two specialist Digital Learning rooms, a Green Studio and specialist Music, Drama, Art and Technology Rooms, a Sportshall and Canteen.
Outdoor facilities include two Swimming Pool (a learner pool with a depth of 0.8 metres) and a 25m pool, a five lane running track, a Football/Rugby field, Basketball courts, a Skateboard park, Climbing apparatus, General outdoor play and picnic areas, Covered play areas and two rooftop play and picnic areas.
Sheikh Zayed Academy for Boys was inspected for the second time in the 2017-18 academic year. In its initial inspection in 2015-16, the school was rated Good, during its first year of operation. In the 2017-18 inspection, the school achieved a rating of Very Good, a remarkable achievement for a school that was still growing rapidly and has not yet opened fully.
It is also clear that the inspection team have high expectations of the school; the report notes that "Under the leadership of an exceptionally effective principal, school leaders at all levels demonstrate an outstanding capacity to continue to innovate and improve over time." It is rare for ADEK inspection teams to suggest a capacity to improve that is greater than the current overall rating. After a gap of four years, and with the challenges presented by the Covid 19 pandemic, the school was again awarded the Very Good rating in the 2021-22 inspection.
For reasons that have not been explained (we assume to enable inspections to take place at all schools that had not been inspected in 2019 and 2020), the inspection team reviewed only four of the six key performance standards and issued abbreviated reports without commentary.
At the time of the 2017-18 inspection, SZPAB was awarded Outstanding for 59% of the performance measures evaluated, Very Good for a further 29%, and Good for the remaining 12%. The latest inspection shows that 41% of measures were evaluated at Outstanding and 29% were Very Good. No measures were evaluated as lower than Very Good, although 29% of measures, due to the Curriculum, and Students' Personal and Social Development and Innovation skills not being evaluated, were Not Applicable. It will be necessary to wait for the next full ADEK inspection, due in the coming academic year, to obtain an overall view of performance.
If you would like to read the inspection report to gain a deeper understanding of the ratings, including those areas of strength, and those where improvements may still be expected, you will find it here.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has received feedback from over 40 parents at SZPAB who have rated the school 3.9/5 - a positivity rating of 78%.
Parents believe that children enjoy going to school and have a strong sense of belonging. Very few parents, compared with the UAE average, had considered moving their child to another school, usually a sign of satisfied parents. But despite 80% of parents being fully satisfied with the academic performance of the school, 36% believe that additional tuition is necessary.
Parents are extremely satisfied with the way in which the school has supported growth in their child/ren's confidence. They are also overwhelmingly satisfied with the communication between the school and themselves, and also with the disciplinary policy and its implementation. Despite the latter, however, over 60% of respondents are at least moderately, or more, concerned about bullying at the school.
As is often the case, where parents are also less happy is in the value for money they feel the school fees represent. Whilst 33% agree that they did (well below the UAE average of 51%), 11% totally disagreed with this view, and 56% partially agreed. In spite of these concerns, 86% of respondents would unreservedly recommend SZPAB to other parents. The remaining 16% were not sure.
To enable us to offer a broader, representative view, if you are a parent, teacher or senior student at Sheikh Zayed Academy for Boys and would like to share your experiences with other potential members of your community, please do so by completing our survey here.
ADEK has not formally published information related to the feedback from students, parents or teachers. However, the 2017-18 report included references to "Students [who] have a very strong work ethic. Their highly positive attitudes to learning and to school result in excellent behaviour for all age groups. They are respectful of others, confident and caring. Students have excellent relationships with their peers and with staff." The 2021-22 inspection rated the partnership between the school and parents as Outstanding.
If you are a parent, teacher or senior student at Sheikh Zayed Academy for Boys and would like to share your opinions and experience with other potential members of your community, please do so by completing our survey here.
Fees are - as would be expected - on the high end of the ADEK scale. with fees in pre-KG at AED 45,000, KG1 and KG2 at AED 52,260, Grades 1 to 5 AED 57,840, Grades 6 to 9 AED 63,840, and Grades 10 to 12, AED 70,260.
Fees do not include Uniforms or bus fares. A Digital device, which must be purchased from the school, is required for students in all Grades from 3 to 12.
Admissions testing is required for all students from Grade 1 to Grade 11 for entrance and grade placement.
Sheikh Zayed Academy for Boys is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:
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