United Arab Emirates / Abu Dhabi / Al Shamkha / Wales International (formerly Al Ansar International) School

Wales International (formerly Al Ansar International) School Review

Wales International School (formerly known as Al Ansar International Private School), which opened in 2016, operates out of a purpose built facility, serving its over 450 students, teaching the English National Curriculum to a majority Emirati student body population. The school has grown rapidly in the past year, almost doubling in size, but is still relatively small by UAE standards and able to offer personalised support to students as a result.
At a glance
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Acceptable
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
Availability 2021/22
Annual fee average
AED 29,000
Annual fees
AED 23,000 - 33,500
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
2016
School year
Sep to Jul
Teacher turnover help
8
Principal
Mr Brendan Aspell
Community
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom
Main student nationality
United Arab Emirates
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Wales International (formerly Al Ansar International) School

Wales International (formerly Al Ansar International) School Review

School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Acceptable
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
Availability 2021/22
Annual fee average
AED 29,000
Annual fees
AED 23,000 - 33,500
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
2016
School year
Sep to Jul
Teacher turnover help
8
Principal
Mr Brendan Aspell
Community
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom
Main student nationality
United Arab Emirates
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Wales International School (formerly known as Al Ansar International Private School), which opened in 2016, operates out of a purpose built facility, serving its over 450 students, teaching the English National Curriculum to a majority Emirati student body population. The school has grown rapidly in the past year, almost doubling in size, but is still relatively small by UAE standards and able to offer personalised support to students as a result.

The story so far...

Wales International School is the re-branded Al Ansar International Private school which is a relatively new school on the Abu Dhabi educational market. Currently the school serves KG, Primary, and Middle (Lower Secondary) School students, the largest section of the school being Primary with around 250 students, followed by the KG with just under 150 and the remainder in the Middle School.  85% of students are from the local Emirati population, whilst a further 3% each of students are from Syria and Egypt and 2% from Yemen.

The school was set up to provide a high-quality British curriculum education for children in the local area. Since opening Wales International School has gained British Schools of the Middle East (BSME) status - evidence of the school's determination to provide a recognised quality of education through a process of self-evaluation and inspection.

Wales International School is still very much a ‘local’ school, catering for a predominantly Emirati clientele, which now caters for the 3 – 13 age group (girls and boys). The school aims to adhere as closely as possible to the National Curriculum of England, within certain cultural and religious constraints, which will eventually culminate in IGCSE and AS & A2 level examinations. All lessons are taught in English, apart from Arabic, Islamic Studies and UAE Social Studies, which comprise approximately 20% of lesson time, as prescribed by the Ministry of Education.

Nearly all students are native Arabic speakers, but English is the official language of the school. Although the school has students of quite a broad ability range, prospective students are admitted and placed, based on performance in English, Arabic and Mathematics placement tests. The curriculum has been brought closely in line with the ethos and pedagogy of the National Curriculum, with emphasis, for example, on independent, differentiated learning, cohesive assessment, and Assessment for Learning strategies and tracking procedures.

Despite the efforts of the leadership team and staff, the school's first ADEK inspection, which took place some 8 months after the school's opening, found it to be Weak overall with the main issues identified as the situation "in every phase of the school, [that] students’ achievement is weak in all subjects except social studies."  Much of this weakness seems to have been due to the lack of English with which most students enter the school, and the difficulty staff had experienced in adapting the curriculum and their teaching skills to address this situation. This performance rating may well be the reason why the school has changed its name.

At the time of the first inspection, there were 25 teachers and 15 teaching assistants at the school and the teacher to student ratio was 1:18 in the KG and 1:14 in other phases.  Such staff levels should usually permit experienced teachers to provide sufficient individual support.  Although the latest (2017-18) Inspection report is not yet published on the ADEK website, the school has provided a verified copy which forms the basis of our review below.

The teacher turnover rate at the school in 2016 was found to be a low 8 percent. This is likely due to the fact that teachers were in the middle of their two year contracts. The 2016 report mentions decisions already having been made with regard to the dismissal of under-performing staff.  Teacher turnover in the latest (2017-18) report is also noted at 8%, suggesting that those staff replaced in 2017, have largely remained in place.  Staff numbers have grown to 37 teachers (reflecting the growth in student numbers), together with the 15 teaching assistants.  This has improved the staff:student ratio to 1:12, potentially offering greater individual support.

What the inspectors say

The most significant change from the report of a year ago is the improvement in the school's overall rating to Acceptable from Weak.  There is not a single Weak rating in the current report, with many indicators having improved to Good.

The introductory comments from the Inspection report summarise the school's performance in relation to the six key indicators as follows:

"The students’ overall achievement is acceptable. It is Good overall in Social Studies, Mathematics, Science and other subjects. In all other subjects’ students’ attainment is at least acceptable. Students’ learning skills are acceptable overall. Students with SEN make similar progress to other groups.

Students’ social and personal development is good. Students display positive behaviour and attitudes and there are respectful relationships between students and staff. Their attendance is good. Students develop a good knowledge and understanding of UAE culture and Islamic values. [However], their innovation skills are not well developed.

The overall quality of teaching and assessment is acceptable. Teachers demonstrate secure subject knowledge. All staff use the school’s internal assessment tool to inform their lesson planning. However, planning does not yet impact sufficiently on the high achievers. The overall quality of the curriculum and adaptation is good. The school offers a broad range of non-core and extracurricular activities. There are planned cross-curricular links and also links to UAE culture. [However] the Curriculum is not yet sufficiently adapted for high achieving students.

The overall quality of the protection, care, guidance and support of students is good. The school provides a safe, secure and hygienic environment. Overall support for students with special educational needs (SEN) is good. 

The overall evaluation of leadership and management of the school is acceptable. The principal facilitates a culture of distributive leadership and has secured improved attainment in all subjects. Partnership with parents is good. The day-to-day management of the school is efficient."

It is clear that Wales International School has made significant progress in the past year. The report highlights these improvements, noting that the key strengths of the school are:

  • Improved achievements in all subjects.
  • Students' appreciation of UAE culture and heritage.
  • Students' understanding of Islamic values reflected in positive behaviour and respectful relationships.
  • Identification and support for students with special educational needs (SEN).
  • Clear vision and ethos shared by stakeholders.

The school has made significant gains in student attainment and progress with most non-Arabic subjects being rated Good in Primary and Lower Secondary (although English remains Acceptable), and all three core English-based subjects (English, Maths and Science) in KG/FS are rated Acceptable also. This presumably reflects the lack of English among students joining the school.  The achievement in relation to Arabic as both a first and second language is rated Acceptable across the school, although Social Studies is rated Good - in fact, the majority of students are ahead of expectations in this subject. A new Head of Arabic has been appointed and would be expected to assure progress in his field. Other subjects (Art, Music and PE) were also rated Good across the school - again presumably indicative of the lower English requirement.

The other major area of focus for the school is in regard to Teaching and Assessment which are rated Acceptable.  Whilst staff have the subject knowledge necessary to deliver the curriculum, with their planning, use of questioning to engage learner interest and the use of assessment data to inform teaching found to be effective, teachers do not yet provide sufficient opportunities to develop students’ critical thinking, problem-solving and innovation skills in lessons.

Whilst the Curriculum was rated Good overall, the adaptation of the curriculum to meet the needs of individual students was rated Acceptable.  Inspectors found that further development was required - notably in relation to the provision of opportunities to develop enterprise, innovation and problem solving and the modification of the curriculum for high achieving students. 

Although there are still areas in need of improvement in terms of the academic progress and attainment of students and the adaptation of the curriculum to support this, there is clearly much that is positive about Wales International School and the evident progress that the school has made in the past year.

Students’ personal and social development is Good. Relationships between students and staff are respectful and this results in a calm and purposeful learning environment. Students display positive attitudes towards learning and demonstrate exemplary behaviour. Students feel safe and secure, and bullying is rare.

Students also make a contribution to the school community; their understanding of Islamic values and UAE culture is good. They contribute to daily assemblies through their recitation of the Quran. Islamic values of respect, tolerance and care are understood and practised by the students. They celebrate other cultures and customs on international day. Students also have a good sense of social responsibility. They donate clothes to the Red Crescent and visit local hospitals. 

The Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students, including those with Additional Learning Needs (SEND) students, has improved from Weak to Good.  As the report explains, "the school has appropriate systems in place to identify students with SEN and those who are Gifted [and] Talented. Effective support systems are detailed in education learning plans which enables students with SEN to make progress." The recruitment of an SEN Coordinator has clearly made a significant impact in this regard. 

The Principal, senior teacher and Board of Governors have focused on ensuring the on-going orderly management of the school which is calm, well-organised and runs smoothly. Inspectors found that the day-to-day management of the school is smooth, and procedures and routines are efficient. The premises are of a high quality with extensive specialist provision. The facility is a brand new purpose built school, effectively designed with superb facilities - Library, Computer Laboratories, Gymnasium, Football Pitch, Science Laboratories, Music Rooms, Swimming Pool, Canteen and School Clinic.

The Principal, governors and owner have an accurate knowledge of the performance of teachers’ strengths and areas for improvement. All staff are enabled to engage in professional development. Partnerships between the school and parents are good with parents taking an active part in school life and participating in a range of activities. 

ADEK inspectors described the strengths of the school leadership as the shared inclusive vision by stakeholders, the relationships and communication with all staff, and the accountability by the Governing Body in relation to school performance.

The Inspection report makes the following overall key recommendations for improvements at Wales International School:

  • Raise the achievement of students in all subjects by: i. offering high quality feedback to help students further improve ii. continuing to ensure that sufficient time is planned for writing skills iii. using modelling and exemplar work to set the expectation for students iv. providing opportunities for critical thinking and problem solving through discussions and debates.
  • Continue to improve the consistency of teaching and assessment by: i. modelling high standards of teaching and classroom management ii. providing opportunities for dual teaching iii. Setting and monitoring attainment of challenging targets. 
  • Improve the impact of middle leaders by: i. strengthening their expertise on the use of data ii. engaging in the focussed monitoring of teaching and learning iii. monitoring targets set in improvement plans iv. exploring practices that support innovation and enterprise.

In the first Inspection report in 2016-17, ADEK inspectors noted that "Despite the setbacks the school has encountered since it first opened, there is the capacity and commitment to take the school forward."   The 2017-18 report appears to vindicate their trust in the school's ability to make significant improvements.  WhichSchoolAdvisor.com is interested to see whether this level of development and improvement can be maintained.  If more of the currently Acceptable ratings can make the step up to Good, we can see no reason why the school should not achieve this overall rating two years from now.

Fees for the school start at AED 23,500 AED for KG1 and rise to AED35,000 for Grade 12 although the school is currently open only to Grade 8. 

If you are the owner or the principal of the school and note any inaccuracies, or would like to update data, you can now open an account with us. You will also be able to add admissions availability per year group, and advertise current job vacancies. This is a free service. Please help us keep prospective parents up to date with your latest information.

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