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Aldar Education’s Al Shohub School Abu Dhabi, Khalifa City A – The Review 2022
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Background and Location

Photograph of the main school interior and colourful breakout learning corridors at Al Shohub School in Abu Dhabi

Al Shohub School Abu Dhabi is a difficult school to review. On paper, Al Shohub is a British, co-educational school, established in 1999, educating boys and girls From FS1 to Year 6, before evolving to a girls-only education culminating in IGCSE in Years 10 and 11, and gold standard A Level (and now BTEC) at British Sixth Form.

To all intents and purposes, however, Al Shohub must be treated as a new school following its takeover by Aldar Education, the leading schools group with a record of delivering some of the most outstanding and inspiring schools in the emirates including the ADEK Outstanding Cranleigh Abu Dhabi and its Academy schools:

  • ADEK Outstanding Al Yasmina Academy
  • ADEK Outstanding The Pearl Academy
  • ADEK Very Good with Outstanding Features ranked Al Ain Academy
  • ADEK Very Good with Outstanding Features ranked Al Bateen Academy
  • the in our view extremely high performing Al Mamoura Academy and the US curriculum West Yas Academy, both subject to strong levels of new investment.

Aldar Education is the largest operator of private schools in Abu Dhabi Emirate, educating some 27,000 plus students its Academy Schools, Charter Schools, ADNOC schools, Cranleigh Abu Dhabi and nursery Group (including Al Forsan Nursery).

So why must we treat this as a new school? Al Shohub School itself does not, yet, meet the standards we expect of an Aldar school – but this should not be surprising given its only recent takeover (July 2022). The backstory to the school is fascinating, its beginning life as one of the well-known “Villa Schools” in the late nineties, many of which were closed across the UAE because they were simply not able to meet the standards required by increasingly demanding school regulators and a UAE government intent on delivering in the UAE the most outstanding educational system available anywhere in the world. Shohub was, however, one of the few that did survive, this on the back of very significant investment by the founder in a brand new, purpose built – and facility rich school in 2013. What did not follow the “bells and whistles”, however, was a concomitant investment in teachers, subject breadth and qualification pathways to match the strong investment in facilities. Al Shohub School, as a result, simply could not compete with schools now significantly investing across the board to drive up standards to meet the new demands of the government. It did not help that it set its fees relatively high (at the time), this on the back of the shiny new school, without such investment where it really mattered.

The old Al Shohub School might be described as a school then that thrived on show, but simply did not have the investment to deliver on substance. The biggest single cost of any school are the teachers and school leadership which exceed some 80% of a school’s  budget – and, as a result, it is the first place to see compromises. Small operators, as here, can see declining student roles without such investment – and what follows is a vicious exercise in cost-cutting as families choose better options, and school budgets run dry. At the time of its last inspection in 2018, Al Shohub was running on empty, securing a just Acceptable rating – and falling short of the absolute minimum “Good” rating expected of all schools operating in the UAE. The big flaws were in Middle and Sixth Form provision which fell woefully short, this manifested in poor examination achievement, students sitting examinations often one year late, poor breadth of subject choice at IGCSE and Sixth Form and very limited qualification pathways. The number of students at the school almost halved over two years as parents voted with their feet. Teachers left the school in their droves (at one point almost 60% of teachers left the school). This is not to unnecessarily critique the founder, whose commitment to delivering an outstanding education for children was never in doubt. Al Shohub Private School was established by the hugely respected and inspiring humanitarian and educationalist Her Highness Sheikha Shaikha bint Saif Al Nahyan with the aim of delivering an absolutely outstanding education to Emirati girls.  – it is just that limited funds, and the vagaries of the market controlled increasingly by very large groups (with the financial fire power to match), meant that that creditable ambition was never achieved or achievable with the hand it was dealt.

It is against this background that Aldar Education, in late 2022, has stepped in to ‘save the day.’ Positively, what Aldar Education inherits is a substantial school, with a very good – and potentially outstanding level of facility provision and school environment. Many schools fall far short of what is physically on offer here – and certainly what could be on offer here with some investment. The site too, in Khalifa A is excellent, with easy accessibility to families across the capital. What is now required, however, is Aldar to revitalise teaching and school leadership – something it has all the expertise and proven experience of delivering – and in spades. Aldar is known for delivering exceptional schools – and its reputation is built on this. It is the Aldar brand and commitment to the UAE government ideals of a making world class education available to all that makes this school a giant in waiting. Parents must now draw confidence from the Aldar Education brand and the investment and management that will follow. There is another twist here. This is a school deeply committed to a belief in single sex education at Middle and Sixth Form phases. Aldar has expertise here with its Al Mamoura Academy – a school we rate very highly. It is worth finally recognising the important work achieved between August 2019 and August 2021 by then Principal Lisa Passante, whose achievements in reversing many of the schools inherited failures were hugely impressive, structural and long-lasting.

 

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School Leadership

Photograph of Satya Klever, Principal of Al Shohub School in Abu Dhabi

Satya Klever is a New Zealander, with a Ph.D from the University of Southern Queensland, Australia, and a Masters in Education from Deakin University. She brings to Al Shahab School two decade’s experience drawn from across the UAE educational sector. Following her work as a Senior Lecturer in Education at Abu Dhabi’s Higher Colleges of Technology, the UAE’s largest applied higher educational institution, Mrs Klever invested two years working for the Ministry of Education (MOE) with responsibility for training teachers. Mrs Klever moved on to work for GEMS Education for five years, specialising in curriculum development and leading Primary provision before being headhunted for the role of Founding Principal of the British curriculum Apple International Community School in Dubai. She spent two further years in a return to Lecturing at Middlesex University in Dubai before taking up the position of Principal at Shohub School following the departure of Lisa Passante in August 2021.

Facilities

Collage of facilities at Al Shohub School in Abu Dhabi

Facilities include:

  • Indoor swimming pool
  • 450-seat auditorium with full theatre facilities
  • Dedicated basketball courts
  • Cafeteria
  • Courtyard playgrounds with shaded and grassed areas
  • Dedicated Primary schooling
  • Labs by science specialism
  • Separate Sports Hall for ball sports and fitness

 

ADEK approved fees

Current fees at Al Shohub school run between AED 25,500 for FS phases to AED 49,980 for British Sixth Form.

Year Group

Year Group School fees per annum (AED)
FS2 25,500
Year 1 25,500
Year 2 30,600
Year 3 30,600
Year 4 30,600
Year 5 30,600
Year 6 30,600
Year 7 30,600
Year 8 40,800
Year 9 40,800
Year 10 40,800
Year 11 44,880
Year 12 44,880
Year 13 49,980

To get an understanding of the value on offer here, it is worth looking at the fees for the equivalent all-girls Al Mamoura Academy. At Al Mamoura Academy, fees run between AED 48,800 and AED 50,210 at FS phases and rise to AED 72,430 at British Sixth Form. At Al Shohub, fees up to, and including, Year 7 fees are half those that Aldar Education expects at its Tier 1 sister school. For remaining years, families choosing Al Mamoura for their children can expect to pay a premium of at least one third more.

Year Group School Fees Per Annum (AED)
FS1 48,800
FS2 – Year 6 50,210
Year 7 – Year 8 61,530
Year 9 65,850
Year 10 – Year 11 69,350
Year 12 – Year 13 72,430

This, however, only takes you so far. A poorly performing school, however low its fees, should struggle to justify its provision. ADEK expects all schools to deliver highly for children – if there are compromises, parents should expect them from facilities, not the quality of teaching or limitations of the curriculum. As above, the challenge for Aldar Education is that it has bought into a school that punches above its weight in terms of facilities and school environment.

 

Curriculum

The curriculum at Al Shohub is currently under development by Aldar Education. As it stands, options at both Secondary and Post-16 Sixth Form are limited. GCSE subject breadth includes:

GCSE Core Subjects

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science (Single or Double Award)
  • Arabic (Language)
  • Islamic Studies

GCSE Options

  • Art and Design
  • Business Studies
  • Computer Science (ICT)
  • Food and Nutrition
  • French
  • Geography
  • History

A Level and BTEC subject options reflect similar current restrictions. A Level and BTEC subject breadth includes:

A Level options

  • Art
  • ICT
  • Business Studies
  • Mathematics
  • English literature
  • French
  • Biology
  • Physics

BTEC Options

  • BTEC Level 3 Travel and Tourism

 

Bottom Line? The SchoolsCompared Verdict 2022

Investment in facilities and the quality of the school environment for students is of a high standard

Investment in facilities and the quality of the school environment for students is of a high standard at Aldar Education’s Al Shohub School Abu Dhabi

These are early days. Aldar has considerable work to complete to bring Al Shohub up to the standards parents will now expect from its putting its name to the school. Subject breadth and qualification pathways will need serious investment, and this will require recruitment. As it stands, the curriculum is limited. Significant headway has been made in the last few years, including the school’s stand-out performance during Covid in which it continued teaching its students and secured the highest grading awarded by ADEK for the quality of its provision. Work too has begun on developing qualification pathways. Teacher turnover has significantly improved and today hovers around 15%, average for the UAE. The quality of teaching is vastly improved, with more than 80% of lessons now securing a good or higher rating, but more outstanding British teachers are needed. Examination performance too has seen vast improvement if albeit from the limited curriculum. We need to see much better communication with parents – and social media and the way the school projects itself outwardly is limited and often out of date. Our view is that one test of a school is the degree to which it celebrates the achievements of its teachers and students – there is still much to do here.

But in many ways all this is arguably a distraction. This is not a school whose future success can be defined by its somewhat rocky past. With the takeover by Aldar Education, the past is now a foreign country – and should remain so. What happened historically has little if no bearing on what is taking place today. The clock started ticking on the new Al Shohub School, under Aldar Education management and ownership, and the opportunities that presents for students, today.

As above, Aldar has bought into a school that has much to commend it in terms of infrastructure. A little investment here would go a long way. But it is now the substance of the school that really needs attention – and that begins with the curriculum and teaching. You would not want to bet against Aldar achieving exceptionally for the school in both areas. The issue, for us, is only how quickly it can bring this school to the outstanding rating envisaged by its ambitious founder when she sought create a school that would set benchmarks for the education of young women.

Parents should be assured that Aldar Education, with its Al Mamoura expertise behind it, can deliver. This is a medium to long term project as Aldar will need to invest to secure the improved rating that will, in turn, justify an increase in fees and the school attracting a role that will deliver, through volume of fee revenue, the economies of scale it enjoys at its other schools.

As with Mamoura, there is a further pressure here that comes with the responsibility and courage of taking on a school focused on young women. They must not be let down. 

Parents will now be betting the future of their children’s education on Aldar – and the speed in which it will now invest and begin delivering.

We think, given Aldar’s history, ambition and intrinsic role in shaping the quality of education in the UAE, that that’s a good bet for parents to make.

The future looks bright…

You can read our review of Al Mamoura Academy here.

You can visit the official wen site for Aldar Education’s Al Shohub School Abu Dhabi here.

© SchoolsCompared.com. 2022. All rights reserved.

 

Details to consider
2018/19 Overall ADEK / KHDA Rating

NA

2017/18 Overall ADEC / KHDA Rating

Acceptable (Pre Aldar Education)

2016/17 Overall ADEC / KHDA Rating

Good (Pre Aldar Education)

Rating FS

Good (Pre Aldar Education)

Rating Primary / Elementary

Good (Pre Aldar Education)

Rating Secondary / Middle

Acceptable (Pre Aldar Education)

Rating Post 16 / High

Weak (Pre Aldar Education)

Type of school

Private, for-profit

Average Cost Per Year

FS2: 25,500
Year 1: 25,500
Year 2: 30,600
Year 3: 30,600
Year 4: 30,600
Year 5: 30,600
Year 6: 30,600
Year 7: 30,600
Year 8: 40,800
Year 9: 40,800
Year 10: 40,800
Year 11: 44,880
Year 12: 44,880
Year 13: 49,980

Curriculum

British
Notes:
(1) EYFS
(2) GCSE/IGCSE
(3) A Level
(4) BTEC

External Exam Boards

EDEXCEL

Number of A Levels offered

9

A Levels offered

Art
ICT
Business Studies
Mathematics
English literature
French
Biology
Physics
BTEC Level 3 Travel and Tourism

A Level A* to A

Not published

A Level A* to C

Not published

IGCSE A* to C

Not published

IGCSE A* to A

Not published

Number of I/GCSEs Offered

12

I/GCSEs offered

English
Mathematics
Science (Single or Double Award)
Arabic (Language)
Islamic Studies
Art and Design
Business Studies
Computer Science (ICT)
Food and Nutrition
French
Geography
History

Selective

Fully inclusive

Value Added

Not published

Number of Students

(2021) 751
(2018) 562
(2016) 903

Teacher turnover

2021: 15%
2019: 57%
2017: 47%

Year opened

1999

Location

Khalifa City A, Abu Dhabi

Student composition

International, Emirati largest nationality

Gender

Girls Single-sex from Year 7

School canteen

Yes

Owner

Aldar Education

Admissions Telephone

(+971) 2 555 9995

Web Address
Strengths

• Low fees for an Aldar Education school
• The support of one of the most respected education groups in the UAE with a proven history of delivering for students
• Punches well above its weight for school environment and fees
• Expertise in girls-only education
• Ongoing improvements since its lows
• Aldar promise

Weaknesses

• A rocky history - but that should now be treated as history with Aldar Education now at the helm.

Rating
Our Rating
User Rating
Rate Here
Academic
C
B-
Value
C
B
ExtraCurricula
C
B-
Languages
C
B
Sports
C
B
Arts & Drama
C
B
Teaching
C
B
Communications
C
C+
Warmth
B+
A-
Differentiation
B-
B-
SEND Provision
C+
B-
Scl Community
C
B+
Scl Facilities
B+
B
Opportunities

If a single word describes this school, it is potential. Aldar inherits the shell of a fabulous school, one showing significant original investment. It now needs to channel investment, expertise and energy into teachers, curriculum and leadership with speed and power if it is to reap the rewards of delivering for the young women of the future. We would not bet against its doing just that.

C
Our Rating
B
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About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of SchoolsCompared.com and WhichSchoolAdvisor.com UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at] schoolscompared.com

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