The Pearl Academy, previously Aldar Island Academy, is a highly regarded British curriculum primary school owned and run by Aldar Academies, the owner of Al Yasmina school in the capital. The school, operating since 2007, is currently home to almost 700 pupils in grades FS1 to Year 6.
The story so far
Located in the heart of Abu Dhabi Island. The Pearl Academy occupies a previous public school building. The school, operated by Aldar Academies (part of the Aldar Properties Group, but according to the organisation, run on a not-for-profit basis), is one of two Primary-only schools operated by the group. The other is the equally highly regarded - and similarly located and resourced - Al Muna Academy.
During its last ADEK inspection in 2015-16, the Pearl Academy was again ranked Very Good by the Abu Dhabi Education and Knowledge Department (ADEK), the second highest rating given by the authority. As a result of this continued highly-rated performance, The Pearl Academy is one of two Aldar Academies (and the only two schools in the Emirate) who were exempted from inspection in 2017-18 and who will therefore be inspected in the 2018-19 academic year.
The school's population is drawn from over 50 nationalities in total but Emiratis (30%) and to a lesser extent (12%) British students dominate. Staff are predominantly from the UK and with a staff to student ratio of 1:13 (excluding some 30+ teaching assistants), there is plentiful individual attention available. With many children joining the school as non-English speakers, the focus on bi-lingualism (in both directions), means that the support from native- speaking English and Arabic speaking teaching assistants is fundamental to the success of language development.
The Pearl Academy often finds itself competing with the British School in Al Khubeirat (and Brighton College) for the affections of parents. While the British School has certain clear advantages - that it is connected to a highly regarded senior school for example, Pearl's advantage is its size - with some parents appreciating the smaller dimensions (under 500 students as opposed to approximately 1000). Pearl Academy is also connected to the highly Al Yasmina Academy through common ownership, which also has a strong reputation. Al Yasmina is the second school to have been exempted from inspection in 2017-18.
What about the curriculum?
The school follows the National Curriculum for England, with additional lessons in Arabic Language, Islamic Studies and Social Studies. The school passes students through Foundation levels and Key Stages 1 and 2. Although the school follows the English National Curriculum in terms of the subject content, it has adopted an enquiry-based format (similar to the IB programme), where are all topics are subject-integrated and question based.
An enquiry based approach to learning through open ended topic questions ensure students are engaged in learning from the very beginning. All enquiry units are launched with a curriculum trailer, which are shared with the students in class and with parents. Some enquiry units also begin with a "wow" day whereas other enquiry units end with a theme day.
To learn more about the curriculum and the facilities at The Pearl Academy, read our Experience visit.
The National Curriculum core subjects are: English, Mathematics and Science. Foundation subjects are Design and Technology, Information and Communication Technology, History, Geography, Modern Foreign Languages (Year 3 upwards), Music, Art and Design, Physical Education and PSHCE. Following Ministry of Education regulations in the UAE, Religious Education is not taught.
Children from Year 1 are offered extra curricular activities on a termly basis. Information on available "ECA's" is sent to parents for children to select their choices at the beginning of each term and run from 2.20-3.20pm Sunday – Wednesday.
What about the facilities?
The Pearl Academy is located in a former government school. It follows the traditional two storey building design situated around a central courtyard. All FS and Key Stage One classrooms are located on the ground floor with access to external spaces directly from the classrooms. Plentiful play equipment is available outside of the classrooms for the youngest children. Most classrooms are located around a central area which is used for combined and free-flow activities. Classrooms include latest technology with interactive White Boards and 3D technology, including Green screens.
The size of the site on which the school is located does invariably restrict the amount of outdoor space available, but The Pearl Academy does still manage to incorporate a multi-purpose sports hall/auditorium, a swimming pool, netball court, astro turf playing field and play areas with outdoor equipment.
What the inspectors say
The Pearl Academy has been rated Very Good with Outstanding features during the last three ADEK inspections. The school also participated in its first British Schools Overseas (BSO) inspection in 2017 and was rated Outstanding. The BSO inspections are accredited by the UK Department of Education and an Outstanding rating means that The Pearl Academy is offering a standard of education comparable to a similarly rated school in the UK. The Pearl Academy is also accredited by the British Schools of the Middle East (BSME). Members are committed to offering the highest standards of UK education. The BSME is also the focal point for the organisation of many sports and performing arts competitions among their members across the Middle East.
ADEK defined The Pearl Academy's strengths as:
The school's progress in English, Mathematics and Science was said to be "Outstanding" with children in Early Years and Key Stage One "acquiring excellent basic skills". Behaviour is also said to be exemplary at all times.
The report also notes the quality of teaching is "very good and often excellent" with teachers displaying an excellent subject knowledge, especially in English, Mathematics and Science.
The principal's leadership at the school is said to be "Outstanding", and the school itself said to have a very good track record of improving.
Areas of improvement at The Pearl Academy focus around Arabic provision and better connecting with UAE culture. However, clearly this is a school performing in almost every aspect. Inevitably, with a high proportion of Emirati students attending the school, expectations in relation to Arabic, Islamic Studies and Social Studies will be high. The appointment to the leadership team of the school of both the Head of Islamic Education and the Head of Arabic Language is clear evidence of the school's commitment to deliver the highest quality.
Year 6 students at Pearl Primary are guaranteed a year 7 place at Al Bateen Academy currently. The opening of the Girls only section at Al Mamoura Academy is also likely to appeal to families whose daughters currently attend The Pearl Academy.
There is no question that Aldar Academies has again found a formula for success in this small, friendly, but highly effective school. For expatriate families wanting to find a UK curriculum Primary school education with a distinctly Emirati touch, the Pearl Academy has much to offer.
Fees for the year are top end - just shy of AED 41,700 across all year groups - but comparable with other leading schools in the capital.
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