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Al Yasmina School, Abu Dhabi

Al Yasmina School, Abu Dhabi

Al Yasmina School, located in Abu Dhabi, offers a British curriculum for students from three to eighteen years old, and has a capacity for 2000 students, but is currently attended by 1,800 (up from 1,556 pupils).

The school was the second opened by Aldar Academies, founded in 2008, after the launch of Pearl Primary, another highly regarded school in the capital. The school says it regularly receives applicants from other Aldar schools – Al Mushrif, The Pearl and Al Muna, however “these are not feeder schools as they are located within the city”. The vast majority of students at Al Yasmina continue from primary into secondary.

The school regularly does well in WhichSchoolAdvisor.com surveys. In the 2015 School Survey, 82 percent of parents said they would recommend the school to other parents – which puts it in the Top 20 most recommended schools in the UAE.

No one demographic group dominates with students representing over 86 nationalities (one of the most diverse populations for a school in the UAE). The two most sizable populations have recently swapped ranking – 29% are from the UAE (previously 21%) and 22% are British (previously 27%) . Other significant groups are from Australia, America, Egypt, Canada, Jordan, India and South Africa. In total,49% are Muslim.

The school has identified 10% of students are identified as needing additional support. The majority of these have dyslexia, moderate learning needs or speech and language difficulties according to the ADEC inspection report. The school does not use standardised tests for entry as it is non‐selective; it conducts baseline assessments.

Eight percent of students have been identified as gifted and talented.

The school 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 setting 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. “In some rare instances if we can’t meet the needs of a pupil we may ask for additional staff to be brought in. This cost is split equally between the parents and the school.”

EAL Teachers are in place to support students who need language support.

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The school, which opened its doors relatively recently in 2008, has been ranked A2 by the Abu Dhabi education authority, the highest grade it is currently awarding (2104 inspection). No school in the capital has yet to achieve an A1 (Outstanding) grade.

School’s strengths are passionate beliefs, high expectations and a clarity of shared vision of its leaders that results in a “relentless pursuit of excellence”; students’ very high quality personal skills, a positive ethos that supports a harmonious community in which students flourish, are very happy and enjoy school; the wealth and quality of opportunities that enrich learning beyond the formal curriculum; the high level of attainment and progress in subjects taught in English in comparison with best international standards.

Only Arabic provision is singled out as requiring further enhancement, although the school has recently recruited heavily to strengthen its Arabic language capabilities.

Aldar is better known as one of the biggest construction and property management companies in Abu Dhabi, but it also manages one of the most highly regarded primary schools in the capital, Pearl Primary.

Al Yasmina itself is held to be one of the best British curriculum schools in Abu Dhabi, competing with, but often second choice to the more established British School for those wanting their children to follow a GCSE and then A’ Level path (confusingly, but correctly, Yasmina refers to these as A2s on its Web site).

Al Yasmina operates with separate primary and secondary schools. Pupils move to the secondary school for Year 7 and upwards. There are currently 260 children in Kindergarten (KG), 773 students in the primary section, 569 students in the secondary section and 70 in post-16. There are 890 boys and 782 girls in the school.

The Primary School at Al 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 of England and Wales but is modified to reflect the society and culture of the United Arab Emirates. Across phases the school employs 169 teachers (up from 142 teachers), 56 classroom assistants, 12 administrative staff and 2.5 school nurses. The teacher to student ratio is 1:18 with average class size in terms of student numbers of 25 at Primary and 18 at Secondary school. The maximum class size in terms of student numbers at the school is currently 28.

The significant growth in teacher numbers this academic year has been to allow a greater focus on Arabic and “ensure we have an Arabic department that can cater for the needs of all subjects”. The school has also added additional exam boards, is therefore able to deliver more subjects, requiring an increase in staff numbers to deliver them.

Teachers are mainly recruited from the UK.

Students begin their secondary school years in Key Stage 3 (Years 7, 8 and 9), following the National Curriculum of England and Wales, 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. There are currently 24 subject option choices to year 10/11 students.

Post‐16 students do GCE Advanced (A) level study. Al Yasmina offers the following as AS/A’ Levels for those choosing to stay on: Maths, Further Maths, English Language, English Literature, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, French, History, Geography, DT Product Design, Applied ICT, Business Studies with Economics, Music, Drama, A Level Physical Education, Pure Economics, Psychology and Media Studies. There is a total of 21 option choices available to year 12/13 students.

More unusually (in the UAE) and interestingly the school offers BTEC qualifications, promoted in the United Kingdom to those students seeking a vocational route within education. Subjects are limited – and include Art Subsidiary and Art Diploma, Sport Subsidiary and Sport Diploma. WSA strongly believes in vocational education, and would like to see more schools offering BTEC style offerings, and expanding the range of subjects offered.

The above Post-16 subjects are offered in addition to MOE Arabic and Islamic Studies. The school also offers the ‘World Challenge Expedition’ programme to students at Post 16.

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 teaching staff are reported to be highly experienced with appropriate qualifications in the British education system, as are said to have a track record in proving their delivery of high quality education. The school has an annual publication for its results, which should be on its web site by the time you read this (the school is planning to add it shortly). Results are impressive. At GCSE in 2014/15 91% achieved five A* to C grades including Maths and English and 92% in any subject – up almost three percent on the previous year, and compared to a UK average of 58.6%. One out of two students achieved five 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.

Al Yasmina also reports its A’ Level results. In 2014/14 33 pupils sat A2 examinations at Al Yasmina with 70 % recording 3 A* – E grades and 3% of students achieving 3 A*- A grades. Full details may be found below.

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 test for students.

The school’s building and facilities are modern, up to date and impressive having been built recently, by Aldar, who know a thing or two about construction. Some parents grumble that while facilities are impressive, they do not get the use they could. 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 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).

Fees are at the very top end for the capital, ranging from AED 41,850 (FS1) to AED 57,330 (Year 13) according to information on the school’s web site and are paid in three equal installments (2012/13 fees). There is also a registration fee of 2000 AED. The fees are premium, but on a par with other high performing schools in Abu Dhabi. Yasmina also offers a paid bus service, which costs 5,841 AED per year. The cost is the same for both one-way and two-way travel.

Feedback from parents, students and teaching staff is predominately highly positive. This is undoubtedly a well run, caring, and well performing school. Al Yasmina won ‘Best School’ in the 2012 Ahlan’s Best in Abu Dhabi’ awards. However, without being too critical, Ahlan is a celebrity magazine and while no doubt the go to source for Victoria Beckham’s frocks, its decision to evaluate schools is a little odd. It did not publish any criteria for its choice.

More importantly this is a school that according to its ADEC Iqraa report has not only improved considerably since its first report in 2010, but started off well, and is still getting better. Students enter below the UK expectation level, but by the end of reception exceed those levels “in all areas” – reflecting the “Value Added” rating of the school. Students continue to make advancements as they proceed through the school according to the report.

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.”

Al Yasmina has also been inspected by the British Schools in the Middle East (BSME) organisation (February 2014). It has been rated as being “Well above the required standard” in all areas of the inspection. That would make Al Yasmina the first school in the UAE to be rated “Well above the required standard” in all areas of the inspection, the only all-age school in Middle East to be rated as such, and only the third school of all those inspected to be rated as such.

 

School results — Headline Figures

GCSE Results – 2014/15
1. 91% 5 A* – C including Eng/Ma. 1 % down on target of 92%
2. This is roughly in line with previous years and almost 40 % above UK average 2014
3. 92% achieved 5 A* – C any subject. This is 4 % down on our target and slightly down on previous years.
4. This is almost 30 % above the UK average for 2014
5. 5+ A* – A is at 34%
6. 39% is total A*-A grades with 5 GCSE passes
7. English achieved best results for subject 97% A* – C, 53 % of these are A* – A
8. Boys achieved 84% A*-C grades
9. Girls achieved 88% A* -C Grades

AS
1. 79 students in total sat as SUBJECTS at Al Yasmina School.
2. 3 A* – E grades is 76 % which is above our target of 58%
3. 3 A* – A grades was 4 % only 1 % down on our target
4. 2 A* – E grades was 85%, just above our target of 84%
5. 2 A* -A grades was in line with target of 8 %

Boys
• 3+ AS Levels, A target not met (1 student), A/B target not met, A/E target exceeded
• 2+ AS Levels, A target met, A/B target not met (2 students), A/E target exceeded

Girls
• 3+ AS Levels, A target met, A/B target not met, A/E target exceeded
• 2+ AS Levels, A target met, A/B target not met, A/E target met

A2
1. 33 pupils sat A2 examinations at Al Yasmina
2. 70 % 3 A* – E grades surpassed target of 61 %
3. 23 students achieved 3+ A* – E grades
4. 3 % of our students (1) achieved 3 A*- A grades
5. 91 % achieved 2 A* – E grades 6 % above Target
6. 6 % achieved 2 A* – A grades, 1 student down on our target of 9 %

Boys
• 3+ A2 Levels, targets have been met (A*/A & A*/B) or exceeded (A*/E)
• 2+ A2 Levels, target met (A*/A), exceeded (A*/E) but not met A*/B (2 students)

Girls
• 3+ A2 Levels, targets have been met (A*/A) or exceeded (A*/B & A*/E)
2+ A2 Levels, A*/A target not met (1 student), A*/B target not met (2 studentsChange in A, B, C, D, E grades over last year (or equivalent – e.g. if IB DipM, what was the average grade this year, compared to last year)?

 

The WSA Visit

Al_Yasmina

Located in the popular Al Raha Beach housing area, close to Abu Dhabi Airport, Al Yasmina is the newest and most modern of the Aldar Academies. The school opened in 2007 and, in contrast to the Al Mushrif/Al Bateen schools that co-habit the same building but are managed separately, Al Yasmina, in 2015, put in place a management team that works across, and ensures links between, the whole school. As a result, the Senior management structure is larger than many schools of this size, with a whole school Principal, supported by 3 deputies and 5 assistant principals which is a mix of Primary and Secondary leadership. There is a cross-over of specialist staff through the Primary and Secondary school between years 6 and 7 aimed at creating a seamless transition for students moving between the sections. This seems to make perfect sense in such a large operation, where the two schools are almost indivisible and can barely be told apart.

Two of the most striking aspects of Al Yasmina are its rather unimaginative exterior appearance and entry through a small security and reception area with limited space and guest seating. This sets the tone for the whole school – it is all about maximising space, facilities and opportunities for the students who attend the school – not about grand entrances and plush seating or interiors designed to impress! The Primary School is located to the left of a large central atrium area, which also features a cafeteria and juice bar (open to students from year 6) and on either side of which 2 sports/multi-purpose halls are located. The building is 3 storeys and very substantial in size and space.

Foundation, years 1 and 2 are located on the ground floor of the building and are grouped in blocks of 5 (plus one separate Arabic) classrooms, located around large central areas which are used as appropriate dependent on the age groups, so full of play equipment and art resources for Foundation and Key stage 1. Classes each have access to outside space which is fenced off for safety reasons and includes practical play equipment, rubber floored tri-cycling tracks and, further afield, a climbing wall and rope climbing equipment for older Primary children. The rear of the building also offers massive Astroturf multi-sport pitches, ball courts and a very large and spacious swimming pool facility, which includes separate pools for Primary and Secondary. The whole school is very well resourced and students’ work is on display throughout corridors and central areas.

Years 3, 4, 5 and 6 are located on the upper floors of the building. Again, all classrooms are exceptionally large and spacious, all equipped with interactive white boards and central areas which allow students to break out for additional work or activities or small group interaction. Lap top trolleys and I-pad banks are visible in each central area. There is a “bring your own device” policy for Secondary school, but all IT equipment is provided in Primary. There is also a separate Primary library and 3 specialist Music rooms.

The Secondary school is set to the right of the atrium area. If the Primary School seems busy but relatively spacious, the impression of the Secondary school is rather more cramped. This is in large part due to the numerous specialist rooms which include 8 science labs, multiple Art, Graphic Design, Design Technology (including a bank of sewing machines), ICT, Specialist music rooms, music practice rooms, Food Technology, a Drama Studio and Dance Studio – all these in additional to the usual classrooms. The artworks on display are varied and demonstrate some amazing talent within the school. There is, of course, also a very spacious library and study area. The Sixth Form Common room overlooks the atrium from the first floor and is clearly very popular with students.

Currently students sit either Cambridge or Edexcel IGCSE’s in year 11 and AS and A2 in Sixth Form. There are currently 73 students in year 13 and the school’s current capacity does not allow for much expansion – hence a new Sixth Form Centre is due to be built in time for 2016/17. Some of the most pleasant aspects of the Secondary school are the outdoor seating areas which allow Secondary students to enjoy their lunch outside during the cooler weather. Lunch breaks are split into 2 sessions, so that the entire school is not gathered at one time and additional staff are on hand to supervise the outdoor areas and playing fields.

As with all Aldar schools, there is a strong focus on English Additional Language support, given that over half of students joining the school require additional support. As is also common at Aldar Academies, children in the Foundation years follow a programme of immersion, rather than separated learning. Thereafter, they are supported by a strong team in the Additional Learning Centre. Arabic and Islamic Studies (or Social Studies) are taught for 200 minutes per week (5 lessons each of 40 minutes) separated into native and non-native speakers (Arabic A and B). Literacy teaching in Primary is topic-based (similar to the IB curriculum Unit of Enquiry) with the same topic being taught across English, Humanities and Art classes for each half-term period. From year 4 children learn French and from year 7 both French and Spanish are offered.

There is also a strong focus on Special Educational Needs provision within the school – again this seems to be a particular focus of Aldar Academies. A Head of Inclusion works with 2 SEN coordinators (one for each section of the school) with 13 specialist teachers and teaching assistants working with children across both schools. Where shadow staff are employed to support individual students, Aldar Academies subsidises 50% of the costs for parents. The school even arranges Simulation Days to enable children to appreciate the effects of disabilities such as blindness or deafness and works strongly with the Community to support initiatives such as an Autism Desert Camp.

The school operates a strong Open Door policy and visitors to the classrooms are welcome – an unusual feature of many schools in the UAE, who prefer that classes are not disturbed. Whilst we can understand that this may be an issue during tests or for specific subjects occasionally, we have found that children in schools with an open door policy do not seem to be concerned by visitors and nor are their teachers – both are generally very proud to show off their classrooms, work displays and activities. We particularly welcome Al Yasmina’s willingness to show the whole school and not just the sports or specialist facilities.

Al Yasmina is a Band A2 rated school. As such, it is one of the most popular schools in Abu Dhabi and we can well understand why parents are so keen to see their children enrolled here. It is a very large school and at times, the size can be a little overwhelming – particularly as it really is just one very large building with some inevitable overlap between Primary and Secondary, although time-tabling of activities and breaks aims to ensure that there is little crossover between Primary and Secondary students. However, what the building lacks in character, its staff, students and their work most certainly do not.

 

 

Fees 2014/15

Year Group AED Termly (in advance)
FS1 (KG1) 41,580 13,860
FS2 (KG2) 41,580 13,860
Year 1 41,580 13,860
Year 2 41,580 13,860
Year 3 41,580 13,860
Year 4 41,580 13,860
Year 5 41,580 13,860
Year 6 41,580 13,860
Secondary Year 7 48,510 16,170
Secondary Year 8 48,510 16,170
Secondary Year 9 51,975 17,325
Secondary Year 10 57,330 19,110
Secondary Year 11 57,330 19,110
Secondary Year 12 57,330 19,110
Secondary Year 13 57,330 19,110

 

School Reports

Al Yasmina, Summary Inspection Report, 2013

Al Yasmina, Summary Inspection Report, 2014

 

Location

 

 

If you are the owner or the principal of the school and note any factual inaccuracies, or would like to update any information, please do not hesitate to contact us at editor@edu2021.com.

 

Update on June 13, 2016 | Reviewed by David on June 30, 2012

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