Yasmina British Academy, located off the island of Abu Dhabi, close to the airport, offers a British curriculum for students from two to eighteen years old, and has a capacity for 2,400 students.
Yasmina British Academy (YBA) was the second school to be opened by Aldar Academies, and was founded in 2008, after the launch of Pearl British Academy, another highly regarded (primary only) school in the capital. The Academy says that although it regularly receives applicants from other Aldar schools, but the vast majority of students at Yasmina British Academy continue from primary into secondary.
Aldar Properties, owner of the Academies, is better known as one of the biggest construction and property management companies in Abu Dhabi, but it also manages two of the most highly regarded primary schools in the capital, ADEK Very Good-rated Pearl British Academy and Outstanding rated-Muna British Academy. It is also the owner of Al Ain British Academy, Mamoura British Academy, Bateen World Academy (a dual UK/IB curriculum school) and Yas American Academy, its only US curriculum school. All are rated Good or Very Good by ADEK.
Yasmina itself is held to be one of the best British curriculum schools in Abu Dhabi, competing with, but often second or third choice to the more established British School of Al Khubeirat and Brighton College Abu Dhabi for those wanting their children to follow a GCSE and then A' Level path. The school regularly does well in WhichSchoolAdvisor.com surveys.
YBA is a member of the British Schools of the Middle East by whom it was inspected in February 2014. Yasmina was the first school in the UAE to be rated "Well above the required standard" in all areas of the inspection, the only all-through school in Middle East to be rated as such, and only the third school of all those inspected to achieve this rating.
The Academy is also accredited by British Schools Overseas (BSO), which is affiliated to the UK Department of Education and carries out inspections every four years based on UK OFSTED standards, achieving an Outstanding rating at the most recent inspection in March 2018.
Yasmina British Academy was previously last inspected in early 2020, with a pause in inspections due to the Covid 19 pandemic resulting in a delay to its subsequent inspection until May 2023, when it was again awarded the highest Outstanding rating.
With the initial BSO and ADEK Outstanding ratings having been achieved under the leadership of Jared Nolan, leadership of the school has since passed to Keith Miller, a familiar figure in the UAE.
Introducing himself to the Yasmina community and potential parents, Mr. Miller describes himself as a "visionary, inclusive leader who has significantly transformed the quality of education and the experiences of the students in my care. My vision is a simple one; to ensure that every child in our Academy is happy, highly motivated, and fully supported to maximize their potential, both academically and in all other areas of school life.have worked in education for the past 36 years, working for the last 11 years within the GCC. I have had the pleasure of leading some of the most successful schools within the region."
Mr. Miller's last UAE position was as Director of Education at Fortes Education (owners of Sunmarke and Regent International Schools in Dubai), having previously worked for GEMS Education at their highly regarded GEMS Wellington International School and GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail.
Yasmina continues to grow with some 2,400 students spread across the school. No one demographic group dominates with students representing over 80 nationalities (one of the most diverse populations for a school in the UAE). The two most sizable populations have swapped ranking with some 48% UAE nationals, followed by British and Egyptian passport holders.
Such is the demand for entry to Yasmina that in early 2022, Aldar Academies announced that, despite the many positive features of the current facilities, the school would relocate (in two stages) starting in August 2022 to a brand new campus located 3 minutes away from the current site. Find out more details here.
Teachers are predominantly from the UK, Ireland and Egypt and their 208 number means that the teacher student ratio within the school is approximately 1:11. There are also an additional 10 teaching assistants.
There has been significant growth in teacher numbers in recent years to allow for a greater focus on Arabic and "to ensure we have an Arabic department that can cater for the needs of all students". The school has also added additional exam boards, is therefore able to deliver more subjects, requiring an increase in staff numbers to deliver them.
A staff turnover rate of 12% in 2019-20 was at the lower end of the scale for international schools in the UAE, where the average is around 22% each year. A low staff turnover is generally a good sign - suggesting a committed and happy team.
Class sizes average 25 children, with two teaching assistants in each FS1 class, one teaching assistant from FS2 to Year 2, and five teaching assistants shared each across years 3 and 4, and 5 and 6. In Secondary school, class numbers reduce significantly as students choose their GCSE and A Level options, with many not having more than 15 students.
All children are allocated to houses: Endeavor (Green), Voyager (Red), Challenger (Yellow) and Discovery (Blue). These houses apply to both the secondary and primary school. Two house captains are chosen from Year 6 for head of the primary houses and two are chosen from the secondary school to be the captains of the secondary houses.
The Primary School at Yasmina is divided into 3 sections - the Early Years Foundation Stage (FS1 and 2), Key Stage 1 (Years 1 and 2) and Key Stage 2 (Years 3, 4, 5 and 6). The curriculum is based upon the National Curriculum for England, but is modified to reflect the society and culture of the United Arab Emirates.
Students begin their secondary school years in Key Stage 3 (Years 7, 8 and 9), following the National Curriculum for England, and then move into Key Stage 4 (Years 10 and 11). During KS4 students sit GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) and IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) external examinations. The IGCSE or GCSE is not a matter of choice - the school offers the UK or international versions of the qualification depending on the subject.
Post‐16 students do GCE Advanced (A) Level study. Yasmina offers the following as AS/A' Levels for those choosing to stay on: Arabic, Art &Design, Maths, Further Maths, English Language, English Literature, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, French, Spanish, History, Geography, DT Product Design, Computer Science, ICT, Business Studies, Economics, Music, Drama, Physical Education, Psychology, Sociology, Photography and Media Studies.
The above Post-16 subjects are offered in addition to MoE Arabic and Islamic Studies. Students are able to participate in the EPQ (the Extended Project Qualification which is an individual subject dissertation equivalent to 50% of an A Level in terms of UCAS points).
There is also a strong emphasis on Community Service throughout the school, both within the UAE and overseas. The Academy works with the local community to help with fundraising events that support the Red Crescent, as well as hosting the fundraising and the school believes it is also essential that the students understand why they are raising money for a cause. Students are aware of global issues, such as clean water, sustainability, and the support for refugees.
As well as helping to support the local community, post-16 students have the opportunity to go and support overseas with the World Challenge. This involves going to countries where poverty is very real and helping support the local communities, through housing projects. Yasmina has done this in both Uganda and Borneo and intends to continue its support for these communities in the future.
The school claims many extracurricular clubs - offering "activities ranging from drama and musical productions to sport, Spanish lessons and revision groups". The school has a sports calendar on its web site, and clearly intra school competitions are important. During the school term there are multiple fixtures for cricket, football, equestrian, sailing...
The school itself says it makes a real effort to ensure its students "have a broad and balanced curriculum and not only get the qualifications that they need, but also get life skills that will guide them throughout their lives... The amount of extra-curricular activities offered is truly outstanding and there is a determined attitude by all that that every single child here matters. This is why we create lifelong learners who will go on to make a difference in the world."
The academic year runs from September to June and is divided into 3 terms. The main school holidays are winter break (mid-December to early January), spring break (late March to mid-April) and summer break (late June to early September).
The school has identified approximately 60 students as needing additional support. The majority of those affected have dyslexia, moderate learning needs or speech and language difficulties. Students who have been identified as gifted and talented are supported both directly within the school and also in coordination with the Academy of Excellence which operates across all Aldar Academies and is aimed at developing the gifts and talents of exceptional students from Year 5 to Year 13. The four most-able students across the group can receive a tuition fee grant to cover their first year at university.
Yasmina has two designated SEN departments that support children who have learning difficulties or are gifted and talented. There is also clear differentiation within each class and Yasmina has the option for streaming by sets in both the secondary school and upper primary to ensure all children are being targeted at the correct level.
The general cost of SEN provision is incorporated in the school fees. EAL teachers are in place to support students who need language support.
The school's current building and facilities are modern, up to date and impressive having been built by Aldar, who know a thing or two about construction. Set on a very large site, the school appears to be one substantial building from the exterior, but inside, it is split clearly between the two sections of the school. To the rear and side of the school are substantial outdoor sports facilities, including two astroturf playing fields, a 25m swimming pool and a learner pool, two junior halls (including one for Girls only), a gymnasium and activity studio.
In addition to the usual range of Science and Technology labs and Computer suites, Design Technology facilities include provision for Food Technology, Resistant Materials and Electronics. An emphasis on STEAM means that state-of-the-art 3D technology has been incorporated, including 3D projectors, green screens, SMART Whiteboards in every classroom, Virtual Reality headsets and Augmented Reality applications.
Read more about the school and its current facilities in our Experience Visit.
Creative Arts facilities include several spacious Art studios, a range of Musical facilities including practice and recital rooms, a Drama studio and Auditorium.
In early 2022, Al Yasmina announced the construction of a new campus located only three minutes away from the current one, built across an extensive site of 180,000 square metres. Relocation to the new campus was to take place in two stages, with Foundation children moving in August 2022, whilst the remainder of the school will move to their new home in August 2024.
According to the school, "The new multi-building campus incorporates state of the art facilities that will enable teachers and students to flourish, fostering a future focused educational experience while also delivering on our environmental commitments to supply sustainable schools to the UAE."
As part of phase 2, an impressive Post-16 Centre will be built to retain the school's prominent position within the Khalifa City area. Once fully constructed, it will be a leading educational facility of its type in Abu Dhabi. Every classroom will be fitted with the latest interactive technology which will add value to students’ experience. The new campus will include a large auditorium for performances and conferences, a range of swimming pools, 12 specialist science laboratories, state of the art computer suites, an audio, film and TV recording studio, STEAM and design and technology facilities, and outstanding indoor and outdoor sport facilities.
Whilst the youngest students will benefit from the new campus ahead of the older students, Aldar is also investing in the existing campus prior to the relocation in 2024, with a new playground, a completely redesigned and refurbished Post-16 Centre, extended and improved parking facilities, a new reception area, and a coffee shop. Logic suggests that the campus is not intended to be moth-balled; it seems only a question of time (post September 2024) before a further name is added to the list of Aldar Academies.
Yasmina Academy uses standardised tests for entry, but is non‐selective; conducting baseline assessments using internal and international tests which are subsequently used to inform students' progress and attainment.
Historically Aldar Academies has not published full details of their IGCSE and A Level results to the level of detail that would be the norm in the UK, they did at least make key data available. However, even this minimal information appears to have been reduced further in the past two years.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com believes that whilst examinations are not, and should not be the sole factor, when considering how successful a school is, they are an important decision-making factor and should be available to parents - as they would be in the UK.
In 2023, when students returned to full examinations for the second year, and to pre-Covid grade boundaries - with an anticipated fall in top grades and passes awarded - Yasmina only revealed that 15% of A Level exam entries were awarded A*, whilst 39% received A*-A grades, 79% were awarded A*-C grades and 98% achieved A*-E grades (the pass range). With no information about the student cohort size, and the number of exam entries, it is difficult to place where Yasmina students stand compared with those at other UAE schools - presumably the reason for not including this basic information.
The school was equally as lacking in transparency with regard to I/GCSE examinations in 2023, informing us only that 14% of exam entries were awarded Grade 9, whilst 30% achieved A* grades and 45% were awarded A*-B grades. 84% of entries were awarded A*-C (the pass grades).
2022 saw a return to full examinations albeit with grade boundaries still at levels above those of 2019. The school did not reveal the size of the A Level student cohort, nor the number of examinations entered, but did advise that 15% of entries were awarded A*, whilst 39% of entries achieved A-A grades and 79% were awarded A to C. 98% received an A*-E pass grade.
2022 I/GCSE results were also published in part by Yasmina British Academy. These indicated that 102 students sat I?GCSE exams, although the school did not share the number of exam entries. 15% of entries received a grade 9 at GCSE, the maximum grade possible. 33% received a grade 9-8 (A*), 51% received a grade A*-A and 91% received a grade A*-C (the pass grades).
In 2021, the second year in which students were unable to take examinations as a result of the pandemic, and where grades were again awarded by the schools themselves, it was again at a central level that results for both A Level and I/GCSE were published.
Again, there is a lack of detail, but according to the information provided, an unknown number of students were entered for 211 A Level examinations, suggesting a cohort of around 70. Of these exam entries, 28% were awarded the highest A*, whilst 48% of entries were awarded A*-A, 92% achieved A*-C and 100% of entries achieved A*-E.
In terms of 2021 I/GCSE results, no information was provided about the size of cohort or exam entries, but 19.6% of entries were awarded Grade 9, 39.1% were awarded (A*) (Grade 9-8) and 56% achieved A*-A (Grade 9-7). Overall, 75.2% of entries were awarded A*-B (Grades 9-6) and 95.2% achieved A*-C (Grades 9-4).
2019-20 A Level results information, although specific to Yasmina, were thin on the ground, the school revealing only that Yasmina Academy had "announced record grades for its 2020 A-level results, with more than 1 in 3 students achieving A* - A across all subjects. These results are the highest to date for A-level students within Aldar Academies, with 99.3 per cent of students passing all subjects and 85.6 per cent of students achieving a pass level of A* - C." Given that students did not sit exams in 2020 due to the Covid 19 pandemic, and results were based instead on Centre (Teacher) Assessed Grades, it is a pity that the school was not able to provide greater details.
Sadly, Yasmina Academy did not issue individual IGCSE results for 2019-20. Instead Aldar Academies issued a blanket release covering all four academies that offer the UK curriculum. This stated that over 95 per cent of GCSE grades awarded were between 9 - 4, marking a new record for the education provider, with a 7% overall improvement in results compared with a year ago. Over 56 per cent of exam entries achieved grades above 7, with 21 per cent achieving a level 9, over five times the 2019 national average. 95.4 per cent of entries achieved a grade 4, known as a “standard pass” or higher, overall.
In 2018-19, Aldar Academies chose to provide a joint statement of A Level results for Al Ain Academy and Yasmina Academy. A total of 55 students from both schools participated in the A Level examinations, and Aldar Academies claimed outstanding results for them. All examinations were graded in the bands A*- E, therefore providing a 100% pass rate. At Yasmina Academy (which, as the longer-running Secondary school, we would expect to have the majority of students), 44% of exam entries scored A*, A or B.
IGCSE results were also positive. 88% of students were awarded 9-4/A*-C grades at five or more subjects including English and Maths. The academy recorded an impressive 46% of 9-7 grades among all exams sat by its IGCSE students, while 85 per cent of total entries earned 9-4 grades. The academy also recorded strong achievements in the core subjects of English and Maths with 99% and 96% achieving grades of 9-4 respectively as well as a 100 per cent pass rate overall. 85 per cent of Yasmina British Academy’s UAE cohort achieved at least one top grade between 9 and 7.
In 2017/18, Yasmina students achieved an unbeaten 100 percent pass rate in their A-level exams, with 34% of students achieving 3+ A*-A grades. According to Yasmina, "Overall, the academy's entire cohort of students performed strongly in the subjects of Mathematics, Further Mathematics and the Sciences, with the vast majority achieving an A*- C grade. This reflects the institution’s strong focus on the STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) as it strives to deliver a highly relevant education".
In 2016, 94% of students who sat 3 or more A Levels recorded at least 3 A* - E grades and 48% of students who sat 2 or more A Levels achieved 2 A*- B grades. For A levels in 2017, the school noted that nine students achieved all A* to A grades, while "68 percent of students achieved one or more A* to B grades". Unfortunately, the school does not provide details of the number of students involved - we know that this was 33 students in 2014, but assume that the Sixth Form cohort has grown significantly since this time.
At IGCSE in 2015/16, 82% achieved five A* to C grades including Maths and English and 86% in any subject - compared to a UK average of 58.6%. One out of two students achieved five A* to A grades. In 2017/18, students achieved a 100 percent pass rate in their IGCSE results and surpassed the UK average for five A* to C grades (considered the benchmark results for students wishing to progress to A-Level) with 87% achieving 5 or more A* to C grades, 32% of those earning 5 or more A* to A grades.
Note: The school has a "value added" grade of 1053 which would put it in the top 5% of UK schools. Value added measures the improvement in students from the date of entry, and is a means to analyse the contribution of a school, over and above natural student ability.
To help students transition to university, all students receive mentors. The school has a careers advisor to support students, and hosts several university open evenings. The school also provides help with writing personal statements, online applications SAT’s, IELTS, COPA and all other international tests for students.
The school was ranked as a Very Good school with Outstanding features by the Abu Dhabi education authority (2105/16 inspection). This rating was retained until the 2019-20 inspection when it was rated Outstanding, fulfilling a clearly stated ambition, according to its Whole Academy Intentions for 2015-19, to be "an ADEK Outstanding school and a BSME accredited school."
Yasmina British Academy has done exactly as set out, having achieved the Outstanding rating in November 2019, a feat which it has repeated in the 2022-23 academic year.
For reasons that have not been revealed directly by ADEK, all schools went through an abbreviated inspection process in 2021-22 and 2022-23, which took place with a smaller inspection team over a curtailed period and during which only four of the six key performance standards were evaluated. No areas of strength or recommendations were included within the abbreviated report.
Whilst Yasmina retained the overall Outstanding inspection rating, it would appear that there have been some backward steps in relation to Student Achievement. The 2019-20 inspection showed that every key performance indicator (100%) was rated Outstanding. The new report shows that 6% of ratings were Very Good.
In fact, the report shows that a significant proportion of indicators across English, Maths and Science in FS, Primary and Secondary sections were awarded Very Good ratings. Arabic, Islamic Education and Social Studies are largely rated Good in the Secondary section. It will be interesting to see what the next inspection shows in this respect.
If you would like to read the full ADEK inspection report - and we strongly advise that you do so in order to understand the breakdown of the ratings and previous reports should you wish to - you will find them here.
Feedback from parents, students and teaching staff is largely positive, although with an overall rating of 3.6/5 - or a positivity rating of 72% - we are somewhat surprised that parent feedback is not as effusive as we would have expected. To be fair, with only 26 responses, a larger number from this sizable school community would paint a broader picture. As is often the case, it is the unhappy customer that tends to make his or her views known.
Just over three-quarters of parents would recommend Yasmina to other parents (below the UAE average of 82%). The main 'niggles' seem to be in relation to the fees - with a quarter of respondents disagreeing that the fees represent value for money - and the academic performance of the school, where 69% were satisfied, but a substantial 19% were not (three times the UAE average).
If you are a parent, teacher or student at Yasmina British Academy and would like to share your opinions experiences with other potential members of your community, please complete our Survey here.
With its apparently strong academic record, and excellent ADEK rating, there is no question that demand for Yasmina British Academy, notable as one of the few English National Curriculum schools located in the Khalifa City area, will only continue to rise. The recognition of this by Aldar Academies and the significant investment being made in the new campus is clear evidence that they expect the school's success to continue.
We are, however, still very curious to know what Aldar intends to do with the vacant campus once the whole school has relocated by September 2024. Could another British curriculum academy be in the offing? All will be revealed in the fullness of time.
Fees are at the very top end for the capital, ranging from AED 44,590 (Nursery/FS1) to AED 63,560 for Years 10 to 13 according to information on the school's web site, and are paid in three equal installments. The fees are premium, but on a par with other high performing schools in Abu Dhabi.
Yasmina British Academy 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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