West Yas Academy Abu Dhabi, located on Yas Island, is the first US curriculum school to be operated by Aldar Academies.
The story so far...
Located on a very large campus adjacent to Ferrari world and the main hotel locations close to the Yas Marina circuit, West Yas Academy will eventually accommodate approximately 1,500 students from kindergarten to Grade 12. Currently, the school is open from KG to Grade 9. Students are separated by gender from Grade 5.
The school opened in September 2016 with approximately 285 children in classes from KG to grade 6 and now has approximately 700 students. A massive 40+% of students in the Middle School section were new to the school in 2018-19, which has clearly presented challenges. As a growing school, around 30% of students are in the KG section, just over 50% in the Elementary section, and the remaining 20% in the Middle and Junior High School sections. Almost three-quarters of students are Emirati with the balance from thirty different countries including 5% of students from the USA, 2% Egyptian and 1% Jordanian.
There are a significant number of students of determination - almost 1 in 5 - and the school has set up a specific SEN team to support their needs. The latest ADEK report notes that "thorough systems identify students with SEN and those who are Gifted and Talented (G&T). Students with SEN are effectively supported in class and in the designated SEN room. There are advanced learning and enrichment plans designed for G&T students and they participate in a range of extra-curricular projects, but challenge for them in lessons is less effective".
There are currently 74 teaching staff and a further 26 teaching assistants at the school with a mix of nationalities from the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Staff who have joined the school from the US have received extensive professional development since their arrival in order to ensure that they settle into the local environment and are mindful of UAE culture.
What about the curriculum?
The school follows the Massachusetts Common Core programme with an emphasis on English, maths, science and social studies. With close ties to prestigious universities such as Harvard and MIT, it stands above other curricula for its rigorous, comprehensive and forward-thinking design. It’s also considered to be more demanding - and therefore rewarding - than the American Common Core Curriculum.
In addition to the core subjects the school also offers Arabic, Islamic studies and UAE history and social studies. The Massachusetts common core programme is an upgraded version of the US Common Core, with a particular emphasis on STEM subjects which are integrated into the curriculum. Students have access to iPads and laptops as well as dedicated ICT labs. The curriculum focuses on interactive enquiry-based learning, physical education, and extra-curricular activities. This develops well-rounded students, teaches the mastery of specific skills, and builds confidence from an early age.
The Massachusetts approach is well-organised with clear expectations at each grade level. Assessments are efficiently organised to inform teachers and parents of the progress being made by students across all subjects.
Students work towards the American High School Diploma, which is the standard qualification to gain entry into leading US universities and colleges. The diploma is also increasingly being recognised by other leading higher education institutes across the world.
A significant proportion of students require English language support and resources are being developed within the school and in coordination with the Director of SEN for Aldar to ensure that children with additional learning needs have these meant and are monitored through the provision of an independent education programme.
The school offers an extensive range of after-school activities three days per week. These are mainly teacher led a number of external suppliers are being sourced to provide additional activities for music and dance among others. The majority of students travel by bus school from Khalifa, Al Falah, Sadiyaat and Abu Dhabi Island. The new Aldar Properties development located adjacent to the school will no doubt be a strong source of future students.
What about the facilities?
Facilities at the West Yas Academy are state-of-the-art and have been designed to meet the needs of 21st century learners. These facilities include a 400-seat auditorium, extensive music, drama and art facilities, research laboratory, graphic design area, music recording studio and recital hall.
West Yas Academy has incorporated state-of-the-art 3D technology including 3D projectors, green screens, use of Mobile and Tablet devices and new software technology into the curriculum to help students better understand abstract ideas. Using the technology, they can visualise, inspect, and decipher study materials right in front of them, which is a far more effective way to retain knowledge than transcribing a lecture.
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Sports facilities include a multi-purpose sports hall, dance studio, two large 25m swimming pools - one each for boys and girls - basketball and netball courts, two astroturf playing fields and soft playing areas. There are also separate and secure covered play areas for each of the different school stages and a senior school centre. For students, support for learning is promoted through a well-equipped library, seminar rooms for small group teaching and video conference suites to facilitate links with other schools and education institutions across the world.
What the inspectors say?
West Yas Academy was inspected for the second time by the ADEK inspection team in February 2019 and again achieved a Good rating following its first inspection in 2016-17.
The summary of the inspection reads "The overall performance of the school is good. Students achieve well in most core subjects in all phases because teaching is good, and the teaching in KG is especially innovative. Attainment is acceptable in the majority of subjects in the middle school is good but many of the new students are making good progress from their low starting points. Senior and middle leaders are successfully sharing responsibility for improving standards and governors are now more effective in holding leaders to account. Monitoring of teaching needs to focus more, however on improving outcomes for students, especially in Arabic where achievement remains acceptable."
Whilst the key performance standards of Student Achievement, Teaching and Assessment and the Curriculum - the latter two standards being fundamental the first - have remained unchanged overall at Good in the current inspection, Students' Personal and Social Development and their Innovation skills have improved to Very Good.
The protection, care, guidance and support of students also retained its Very Good rating, whilst the Leadership and Management retained its Good rating.
Strengths of the school were found to be:
In terms of areas of improvement, the inspection team identified a detailed list that will provide considerable challenge to West Yas Academy over the intervening period before their next inspection in 2020-21.
The Academy should:
It is clear that there is considerable improvement still to come at West Yas Academy if it is to achieve the same high ratings of its sister schools, the majority of which are rated Very Good or Outstanding.
If you would like to read the full ADEK inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to understand the reasoning behind the ratings - you can read it here.
The ADEK inspection team noted that "the school is very successful in engaging the parents in their children’s learning and in school life. It systematically gathers and acts on parents’ views."
The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Parent Survey has had a relatively high number of responses. Parents feel that their children enjoy school and feel a strong sense of belonging. Parents are highly satisfied with the level of academic achievement at the school. They also feel that the school is able to meet their children's educational needs. Communication and disciplinary policies are also appreciated by parents. 84% of parents would unreservedly recommend West Yas Academy to other parents. As is so often the case, the one cause for discontent is the level of fees - with 12% totally disagreeing that they represent value for money.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at West Yas Academy, please share your experiences of the school with other potential members of your school community by completing our survey here.
What about the fees?
Fees at West Yas Academy - in line with Aldar Academies' premium provision - are rated Very High by ADEK. KG fees start at AED 52,470, with Elementary fees from Grades 1 to 5 at AED 54,530. High School fees from Grades 9 to 12 are AED 63,280.
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