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The British International School Abu Dhabi – THE REVIEW
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The British International School Abu Dhabi – THE REVIEW

by May 24, 2018

Updated May 2018 – British International School Abu Dhabi revised fee structure, IB results, ADEC 2017-18

Children at the British International School Abu Dhabi learning about nature with a baby hedgehog

“The British International School Abu Dhabi is an environment that nurtures confidence in young people, helping them to reach great success in school and prepare them for life beyond. Students are supported to do their very best in all aspects of school life and to develop the skills and attitudes to be successful individuals in our constantly evolving global society. They are surrounded by the highest quality teachers in a happy and supportive family community.

The core values of Kindness, Honesty and Respect underpin our school: we aim for all children to grow up as caring and contributing members of society who can make a difference to all around them. Our ‘Be Ambitious’ philosophy ensures that all students are constantly challenged to be the best they can possibly be”.

Mike Wolfe, Head of Primary, The British International School Abu Dhabi

Established in September 2009, The British International School Abu Dhabi (BISAD), is a Nord Anglia school which in itself is increasingly a recommendation in the Emirates. The British International School delivers a broad-based English National Curriculum between FS1 and Year 11 and the International Baccalaureate Diploma in Years 12 and 13. Nord Anglia’s pioneering global partnerships in Science and the Performing Arts are unequaled in the emirates – see below.

The school provides an English National Curriculum based education to (I)GCSE followed by the International Baccalaureate Diploma from Year 12.

Prospective parents should weigh four key areas in assessing the school:


  • The school is impressively and fully inclusive in welcoming applications from children across the academic and Special Educational Needs and Disability spectrum. This places significant financial demands on the school to provide a very high caliber of teaching staff and at a higher number for the school to achieve for all its pupils.
  • The school’s choice to deliver the full International Baccalaureate Diploma, an extremely academically stretching programme in both depth and quality, is telling of the ambition of the school given its mixed ability intake.
  • The school continues to benefit from significant ongoing financial and intellectual investment from its parent group. The school is rated as having high capacity for improvement by the Abu Dhabi inspectors
  • The British International School Abu Dhabi is rated A2 (Very Good) by the Abu Dhabi education authority, which puts it in a very small band of Band A High Performing schools.

Stand-out features of the school are its unique and pioneering partnerships in Science with MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and, in the Performing Arts, with the The Juilliard School, New York.

Drama production at the British International School Abu Dhabi in 2018

MIT competes for the world’s most recognised University brand and secures a top-5 place in the Times Higher Education World Rakings for the best universities in the world. More information can be found in the SchoolsCompared annual University Guide to be found here.

The Juilliard School is rated the best Performing Arts school in the world under QS World University Rankings.

British International School Abu Dhabi Principal, Patrick Horne, is a mathematician by training with almost three decade’s experience drawn from schools across the UK, Brunei and China.

“My experience lies in raising academic standards for students of all ages and abilities. I’m a passionate believer that high expectations for students can lead to outstanding and inspirational outcomes.”

Patrick Horne, Principal, British International School Abu Dhabi 

Facilities are very good, although not on the level of the purpose built Dubai Nord Anglia school. They include a fully digital campus; dedicated second floor-based Senior School and IB Academy’ for senior students; dance studio; Black Box drama studio; multiple common rooms; 3 contemporary music suites; 2 libraries by phase; further multimedia library; fully-equipped science labs for Biology, Chemistry and Physics; independent Science Prep Room; Coffee shop meeting area for parents and IB students; new school library with more than 17,000 books, areas for ICT and study and media suite; independent EYFS and Main School dining hall (including a top table to which the highest achievers are invited on a weekly basis); landmark EYFS shaded outdoor classroom courtyards with free flow areas (a highlight of the school); five dedicated ICT Labs; IPad Provision; and a Language Centre with a focus on English as an Additional Language support. All areas of the school are accessible to wheelchair users.

A photograph of children jumping during sports lessons at the British International School Abu Dhabi

Sports facilities include an indoor, heated swimming pool; further landmark indoor semi-Olympic sized swimming pool; air-conditioned, multi-purpose hall for sports including basketball, 2 covered basketball courts; volleyball and tennis; shaded playing courts; and expansive grass playing fields for rugby, cricket and hockey; athletics fields and long jump pit; netball courts; multiple outdoor activity spaces by phase, sport and play type; and independent 150 square metre gymnasium. A new BIS Sports Academy is in development. The school has a close relationship with Abu Dhabi University with which it shares Auditorium facilities. Unusually at school level, the 25M, 6-Lane Pool is equipped with electronic scoring linked to touch pads – we like this feature as it does add a sense of drama to the school’s competition galas.

Another stand-out feature we noted during out May 2017 visit is the large and welcoming coffee shop, housed on the top floor of the building. This has been designed independently, with its own distinct sense of drama and identity. The facility is available to teachers, parents and IB students and is a hub for the school’s extensive commitment to community outreach and for cementing a sense of purpose, independence and recognition for the Senior School students. The school has invested significantly in both new ICT and Science Labs to build on STEM (2018).

Science lessons at the British International School Abu Dhabi being held in new labs developed within the school in 2018

Given the 75+ nationalities represented at the school, the buildings have become a hub of the community. The opportunities to stay and socialise are built primarily around activities for parents (Pilates classes, Yoga, Jewellery making, Arabic and Makeup lessons, coffee areas …).  The parents are very loyal to the school,  relationship with teachers is strong and we noted both an active PTS and genuinely open, two-way communication between the school and parents.

One key test for prospective parents wanting to gauge the degree to which any school is genuinely committed to whole child, holistic development of students (beyond simple rhetoric), comes with a close examination of a school’s Extra-Curricular Activities [ECAs] provision.

On this measure, The British International School Abu Dhabi ECAs are top tier in both breadth and quality. They including Duke of Edinburgh International Award [DOE];  an (inspirational) community service programme (including sustainability projects in Tanzania as well as local initiatives); Boat design and building; Buddy programme for older children to support younger peers; film club; Arabic calligraphy; Arabic Reading Club; Arabic Storybook Club; Art Club; Academic Studies Skills; Art Studio Sessions; Ball Handling Skills; Badminton; Chess Club; Board Games; Book Club; Chess club; “Childlife” Foundations Arts; Coding 4 Girls; Computer Coding; Construction Club; Conversation Club; DIY Up-cycling Club; Eco Warriors; Design IPad; Digital Leaders Club; Film Club; Fun and Games Club; French; German for Beginners; Islamic Puzzles and Riddles; Jujutsu; Gardening Club; Global Arts and Crafts; Healthy Eating; Language Analysis; Language for Learning; Literature Analysis; Healthy eating club; Henna Designs; ICT Club; Lunchtime Book Club; Media Club; Model United Nations; Improving and Developing Arabic Writing Skills; Innovation Cub; Momentum – Dance and Gymnastics; Netball Umpiring; Japanese Club; Orchestra, Junior Stage Stars; Photography Club; Little Movers Dance Company; Ping Pong/Table Tennis; Mathematics Club; Quran Club; Momentum Dance and Gymnastics; Reading Arabic; Mosque Club; Rock Band; Movie Making; Senior Choir; Orchestra, Set and Prop making; Origami Club; Playground Games; Science Club; Spanish Club; Stage Stars; Scrapbooking; Sewing; (Junior) Spanish club; Vocal Club; Yoga; wakeboarding; and, Zumba.

ADEC guidelines require that children below the age of 11 cannot leave the Emirate for school trips. We really liked the school’s work-around which sees Year 7 children embark on an outward bound overnight experience within the school grounds camping in the fields.

There are approximately 400 students in FS and the classrooms and play areas are comprehensive, well arranged, varied and playful.  Specialists teach Music and PE, with Arabic introduced from Year 1. The Primary School has approximately 1,250 students and new events are constantly being introduced to keep interest and energy high. French and Spanish begin in Year 3 to supplement Arabic from Year 1.  The maximum class size is 24 students. 

GCSE subject provision traverses the spectrum of language, science, arts and broader humanities with more than 22 options at the end of Key Stage 4. This is as you would expect from an IB School which must provide breadth of subject area development to prepare students for the International Baccalaureate Diploma. As well as core STEM subjects, the mix of options is excellent, including business studies, economics and Design and Technology options in textiles and graphics, media. We would have liked to see Psychology and/or Philosophy as options at (I)GCSE given their cross-functional usefulness in the IB later, but that is being picky.

GCSE booklet 2017 British International School Abu Dhabi

The secondary, Senior School (for post 16 education in Years 12 and 13) is based independently on the 2nd floor and whilst A levels are offered, all children in 2017-18 have elected the IB Diploma in preference.  The school also offers the IB Certificate for those children who wish to follow a more limited programme. This is backed by the school’s  competitive Senior School Academic Scholarship Programme which offers up to 25% fee remission for gifted children over the complete two-year period of Senior School study. The scholarships are awarded by competitive examination and interviews in May annually and are open to both existing and new students transferring into the BISAD Senior School each year.

The British International School Abu Dhabi does not currently offer the IB Career-related Diploma (IB CrP/IB CP), something that we believe would fit well with the mixed ability intake, particularly given too that Leisure and Tourism already provides excellent grounding at (I)GCSE. This follows from the current lack of accreditation for the IB CrP/CP from ADEC, despite its being accredited in Dubai and the qualification enjoying recognition from the spectrum of top tier universities in the UK and worldwide. We, and our sister site whichschooladvisor, are currently lobbying to have the qualification recognised because of its ability to enable high performing IB schools to better able to target Sixth Form provision to the needs, potential and ambition of individual students. We understand following our visit to the school in May 2017 that BIS is aiming to introduce the IB Career-related Programme from 2018-19. We believe that this will significantly further extend the school’s ability to meet the potential and ambitions of young men and women.

Photo of graduating IB students from Nord Anglia's British School Abu Dhabi

Results, as you would expect, are top tier. In 2017,  British International School Abu Dhabi students achieved an average points score of 32,  against the world average of 30. The score is the highest in the schools’ IB Diploma history. The Diploma pass rate of 97% considerably exceeds the world pass rate of 79%.

Interestingly BIS Abu Dhabi has a dress code rather than a uniform for students studying the International Baccalaureate, encouraging boys and girls to attend school in the spirit of young “booted and suited” professionals/executives.

School fees range from 47,900 AED at FS phases through to 63,200 AED for the IB DP, premium fees for Abu Dhabi, although represent significant value for a British/IB curriculum.

The school scores very highly in the whichschooladvisor walk-in test: “Overall there is a real sense of dynamism within this school.  Although the buildings themselves are traditional in aspect and perhaps lacking in some of the flair and ‘grandeur’ of the Elite schools, The British International School reveals an enthusiasm, drive and commitment – from both staff and pupils – in a really vibrant school environment.”

ADEC Inspectors praise the school widely in their inspection but reserve their standout praise for the school’s outstanding (I)GCSE attainment in English and the Sciences, an achievement even more impressive given the inclusive intake. The British International School scores very highly in its added value. Inspectors’ major area of critique is that BIS Abu Dhabi needs to ratchet up Gifted and Talented [G&T] child provision still further.

Bottom line?

Our inspector noted following her visit in May 2017:

“The community and working relationships with families is amongst the strongest I have seen in any school in the emirates. Parents reiterate the added value they feel the school offers and its very genuine commitment to the community.  Patrick Horne is a very dedicated Principal and has clearly engaged a hugely inspirational and committed team demonstrably pulling in the same direction. I liked BIS very much. It’s an absolutely extraordinary school academically and in the broader Performing Arts. But, as importantly, we found a happy, vibrant school that works, inspires, and delivers in equal part for its children as young men and women pioneering their own individual stories.”

SchoolsCompared Inspection, May 2017

This is a really good school that impresses without requiring the shiny steel and glass of newer elite schools. British International School Abu Dhabi is a richly academic and very whole-child focused school that genuinely inspires.

Highly Recommended.

Are you looking for a place for your child, and want help from our school consultants? If so, click on the link below, and we will forward your request for information to the school or schools of the same type that we are confident have availability. This is a free service for our readers from our sister site WhichSchoolAdvisor.
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Details to consider
2016/17 Overall ADEC / KHDA Rating

Very Good School, High Performing, Band A

2015/16 Overall KHDA / ADEC Rating

Acceptable, Satisfactorily Performing, Band B, Grade 4 (2014)

Type of school

Private, for-profit

WSA Good School

Under review 2016-17

Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

FS1: 50,300
FS2: 50,300
YEAR 1: 58,900
YEAR 2: 58,900
YEAR 3: 58,900
YEAR 4: 58,900
YEAR 5: 58,900
YEAR 6: 60,300
YEAR 7: 60,300
YEAR 8: 60,300
YEAR 9: 60,300
YEAR 10: 60,300
YEAR 11: 60,300
YEAR 12: 66,400
YEAR 13: 66,400
(1) A non-refundable registration fee of 5% is required for all new joiners, payable upon acceptance of an offer. This registration fee will be deducted from tuition fees when the student takes up their place (between AED 2,515 and AED 3,320 according to year of entry)


National Curriculum for England:
Key Stages 1 - 4
(I)GCSE O' Level
A' Level
International Baccalaureate:
International Baccalaureate Diploma [IB DP]
(1) A collaboration between Nord Anglia Education and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has seen the two institutions develop and implement STEAM program across Nord Anglia’s family of schools worldwide, including The British International School Abu Dhabi. The School delivers a curriculum written by MIT specifically for their students, with BIS Upper Primary and Lower Secondary students participating in a series of MIT projects and challenges throughout the year.
(2) Students benefit from the collaboration between Nord Anglia Education and The Juilliard School in New York with a focus on drama, music and dance. Students follow a performing arts curriculum developed by specialists from Juilliard, as well as enjoying Juilliard alumni visits to the school throughout the year.

External Exam Boards

Cambridge International Education [CIE]
International Baccalaureate Organisation [IBO]

IB DipM Pass Rate

97% (2017)

IB DipM Average Grade

32 Points (2017)
(1) 2015: 29 Points
(2) In Higher Level Arabic, every student scored Grade 5 or higher
(3) This score should be read in the context of fully inclusive school entry


80% (2015)


38% (2015)
(1) 91% of students achieved A* to C in English
(2) 92% of students achieved A* to C in Biology, Physics and Chemistry
(3) 10 students achieved all subjects at grade A or A*

Number of I/GCSEs Offered


I/GCSEs offered

English Language (Core)
English Literature (Core)
Mathematics (Core)
Combined Science (Core)
Information and Communications Technology [ICT] (Core)
Arabic (Option)
French (Option)
Spanish (Option)
Media (Option)
Business Studies (Option)
Art (Option)
Physical Education [PE] (Option)
Physics (Option)
Chemistry (Option)
Biology (Option)
Design and Technology I: Graphics (Option)
Business Studies (Option)
Economics (Option)
Geography (Option)
History (Option)
Leisure and Tourism (Option)
Design and Technology II: Textiles (Option)


(1) FS1 & FS2 "Come and Play" session for students in the UAE (alternative arrangements can be made for children currently overseas)
(2) Assessment session for Year 1 to Year 12 Students may be required to "gauge each child's level of English, additional learning needs, or to help decide which year level will be most appropriate."
(3) School promises to review applications within 15 days
(4) School promises to make all applications "as easy as possible and treat all families with kindness, honesty and respect."
(5) Strong commitment to inclusion. Large and well-resourced department supporting EAL and individual learning needs.

Waiting list


Value Added

Not published (whichschooladvisor projected HIGH)

Number of Students

Capacity: 1,600
Current role: 1700+

Teacher to Student Ratio

(1) FS Phases: 7:1,
(2) Primary/Secondary phases: 12:1
(3) Average class size: 12
(4) Maximum class size of of 20 children in FS phase
(5) Maximum of 24 children/young men and women in Primary and Secondary phases

Largest nationality teachers


Teacher turnover

15% (2018)
(1) 2017: 20%

Year opened



Khalifa City B, Abu Dhabi
(1) behind Abu Dhabi University, near Mohammed bin Zayed City

Student composition

Total nationalities: 75+
Female: 45%
Male: 55%
Nationalities: 76
Languages: 20+
British: 24%
Emirati: 21%
Indian: 6%
Special Educational Needs [SEN]: 69
Gifted & Talented [G&T] - Academic: 112
Gifted & Talented [G&T] - Performing Arts: 35
KG: 330
Primary: 829
Middle: 314
High: 109


Mixed, co-educatiional

School canteen



Nord Anglia Education

Admissions Telephone

+971 (0) 2 510 0100

Web Address
Attainment Nur SEM


Attainment Pri SEM


Attainment Sec SEM

(1) 100% Outstanding in English and Science

Attainment Post-16 SEM

(1) 100% Outstanding in English and Arabic.
(2) Rated "Good" in biology and chemistry
(3) Rated "Acceptable" in mathematics and physics
(4) Attainment data indicates an improving trend in performance in almost all subjects

Progress Nur SEM


Progress Pri SEM


Progress Sec SEM

(1) 100% Outstanding in English and Science

Progress Post-16 SEM

(1) 100% Outstanding in English and Arabic.
(2) Rated "Good" in biology and chemistry
(3) Rated "Acceptable" in mathematics and physics
(4) Attainment data indicates an improving trend in performance in almost all subjects

Arabic Native Primary Results (Native)


Arabic Secondary Results (Native)


Arabic Post-16 Results (Native)


Arabic Primary Results (Add.)


Arabic Secondary Results (Add.)


Arabic Post-16 Results (Add.)


Islamic St. Primary Results


Islamic St. Secondary Results


Islamic St. Post-16 Results








Quality of teaching

(1) Quality of teaching observed by ADEC ranged from "Outstanding" to "Weak" across subjects
(2) Most lessons were deemed by ADEC to be "Good" or "Very Good" or "Outstanding"

Student personal responsibility


Quality of curriculum


School Governance


SEN Provision

(Gifted & Talented [G&T] 60%)


• Part of the Nord Anglia Education group - deserved reputation for fabulous, inclusive, whole-child focused schooling
• Juilliard School collaboration unique in the Emirates and a benchmark for artistic education in the broader musical arts
• MIT partnership in Science and broader STEAM
• Outstanding leadership
• Already good IB results in very early days of its introduction. Anticipated results for 2017 as provision beds-in are mooted excellent
• High added value
• Teaching staff: Students, 1:5
• Tier 1 facilities
• Happy, vibrant and meaningful whole child education and family school community feel
• Inclusive and richly drawn global campus offering a genuinely international education and experiences for its children
• High cache Senior School scholarship programme


• Gifted and Talented [G&T] child provision, already strong, has scope for development to match the very best in the Emirates
• In its current lack of Career-related IB DP provision the school limits options for some children

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• A special, vibrant school with all the capacity to move to Outstanding school status.

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About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of and UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at]

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