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Raha International School, Al Raha Gardens, Khalifa City A – The Review
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Review

Raha International School, Al Raha Gardens, Khalifa City A – The Review

by April 30, 2016
Strengths

• Taaleem expertise, backing and investment
• ADEC flagship “Band A, High Performing, Outstanding” school.
• Genuine, serious and ongoing commitment to school improvement
• Outstanding performing arts provision
• Whole child development
• Hugely warm school environment
• Tier 1 facilities without the distractions of bells and whistles
• Recognition of all staff in developing an outstanding school
• Impressive university slipstream

Weaknesses

• Transparency could be improved
• No IB CrP in Abu Dhabi - although by no means a critique of Raha
• Identified weaknesses in Islamic/UAE Social Studies provision
• Demands of IB DP curriculum need managing better at Middle Year phase

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

An outstanding, and in key respects extraordinary school that delivers a level of school administration, whole child development and nurturing that highlights what the very best all-through IB provision can achieve for children.

A-
Our Rating
A
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20%
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10%
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Updated July 2017 – Raha International School examination results

Updated January 2017

As of May 2016, Raha International School [RIS] is one of just three schools in Abu Dhabi to have achieved the “Band A. High Performing. Outstanding” school award from the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) under the education inspectorate’s Irtiqaa programme of independent school inspections. Prospective parents should note too that RIS is fully and impressively inclusive – the school does not discriminate  Fully inclusive. The school does not discriminate on grounds of disability, Special Educational Needs [SEN], nationality, additional language status or sex – and all applications are considered fairly on a “first come, first served” basis defined by the date of application. The later attainment of students academically in the stretching International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB DP), and, as importantly, in the context of their broader whole child development, is all the more remarkable for this commitment to genuine inclusion. More notes on this can be found in the tables below.

Raha International School currently stands with Aldar Academies’ Al Bateen Secondary/Al Mushrif Private School and Al Muna Primary School as the first schools in the UAE to have ever achieved the Tier 1 rating from ADEC.

Raha International School is part of the Taaleem family of schools, all of which except RIS, are located in Dubai. They include “Children’s Garden” nurseries; the US Curriculum Al-Mizhar American Academy; English National Curriculum founded Dubai British Foundation and two Dubai British Schools; and, the IB based Greenfield Community School, Jumeirah Baccalaureate School and Uptown Schools.

Taaleem’s The Greenfield Community School is a pioneer in the UAE of the vocationally structured “International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme”, the IB CP. RIS does not currently provide this final fourth IB option to its students because, whilst accredited in Dubai, it is not currently accredited in Abu Dhabi by ADEC. As a result, Raha has a very complex task managing the transition from the Middle Year Programme (MYP) to the full International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB DP).

Our Guide to the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme – and why it matters – can be found here.

We, our sister site whichschooladvisor and a number of top flight IB schools in the Emirate are lobbying to have this addressed by ADEC. We believe that the CP programme provides exceptional benefits to children, and particularly for those in schools genuinely committed to whole child development and being able to respond to the individual needs of children. The CrP programme is the only IB programme designed to meet the vocational needs of many children, particularly those that are less academic – whilst also being a programme taken increasingly worldwide by academic children as a the pre-qualification to Tier 1 universities over the Diploma because of its ability to combine vocational and academic study. Our view, in a global economy increasingly driven by the needs of industry, is that the IB CrP is going to become more, not less important over time. We understand that Raha, once ADEC approvals are in place, will provide the IB CrP and prospective parents should weight this positively in their shortlisting of prospective schools. In the interim Raha has advised us (impressively) that it is “seriously exploring other options which should allow students an alternative to the DP in the very near future if the CrP is not recognized by ADEC.”

Our view, and that of our sister site WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, is that the IB CrP, and alternative vocational curricular programmes are critical, particularly in inclusive schools like RIS where traditionally there is demand from students for a qualification tailored to providing hands-on industry experience to enable students to fast track entry into industry at the age of 18 rather than continuing to undergraduate programmes. The IB CrP programmes in Dubai, as their (much less academic and arguably less balanced) BTEC counterparts in the UK curriculum schools, generally focus on tourism and hospitality, obviously fundamental to the local economy – in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. We will monitor this issue and report back to parents when we have further insight from ADEC about their plans.

The CP aside, Raha International School offers a consistent IB experiences across the IB Early Years [EYP], Middle Years [MYP] and Diploma programmes to students from FS1 and Grade 12. The school, established in 2006, has had time to bed in its development, with 14 acres of landscaped grounds setting off a traditionally Arabic style school with a number of turreted features setting off its somewhat block build. It is certainly not an architecturally flamboyant glass and steel affair increasingly characteristic of the Emirates ultra-premiums, but it is a warm and inviting school as a result. Fees, for the quality of Raha International School whole-child provision and resource hungry IB profile offer real value, falling just into the premium structure between 36,100 AED and 56,900 AED. It is almost half the fees of the UAE’s most expensive comparative schools.

Facilities at Raha International School are excellent and although short of the bells and whistles of the most expensive schools, have now been subject to ongoing and significant development.

Since our updated review, the new Early Years Building for children in Early Years 2 at Raha International School has been opened (February 2016) and includes 8 new classrooms, new playgrounds and (fabulous) dedicated gymnasium for Early Years. The school’s new Performing Arts Centre (opened in September 2016) of this year includes a 600 capacity theatre auditorium; art galleries; 2 drama studios; 2 music centres; 7 music rehearsal studios; 3 arts classrooms and a black box theatre. We have also been advised that Raha International School has now completed three new design and technology studios which are currently (January 2017) being equipped with enhanced 3D printing facilities, laser cutters and a CNC Router. One major motivation for this investment is to enable Raha to fully integrate Design & Technology classes within the Diploma Programme next year – something we believe builds strong foundations for vocational balance. Impressive stuff.

One key feature of Taaleem is its impressive record of on-going serious investment in its existing schools – and these developments mean that Raha International School now offers children in each of its three school areas (Early Years, Primary and Secondary) their own libraries, gymnasiums and specialist music and art classrooms. For prospective parents the importance of this is that Raha is now one of a limited number of schools genuinely able to offer an educational experience to children matched to the distinct needs of each child at each phase of their development. Many parents often choose separate schooling for children, particularly at Early Years (but also increasingly at Sixth Form), because all-through schools without proper investment in the facilities to clearly demarcate phases, can lump children together with negative consequences on their development. In the case of Early Years children this can mean their “growing up too soon” with a perceived loss of childhood and the play centred learning seen as critical to this phase of development. In the case of older children it can mean that their transition to young adults can be stifled by the inability of schools to extend freedoms that could disrupt Middle Years students but which are vital to children as a bridge to their later transition to university and industry. Raha International School is now in a position to deliver very targeted provision to children byy phase, again hugely impressive and we feel something which should be positively weighted by prospective parents.

Photo of the Main School Building and playing fields of Raha International School in Abu Dhabi

Other facilities at Raha International School include a fully digital campus; two libraries by phase; independent Biology, Chemistry and Physics labs (it can be telling of a school when it combines Sciences in single labs, this generally to lower costs but with a knock on deleterious effect on the quality of provision); a Design and Technology studio; three music studios (this set to expand as above); three visual arts studios and multiple ICT labs. ADEC inspectors draw particular attention to the school’s investment in shaded areas for children’s play and its wholly redesigned external play areas for children in the Early Years so that they “now have a varied and exciting range of outside play areas, including a mud kitchen, containing high quality facilities that enable children to explore and engage with the world.”

As the Performing Arts facilities ratchet up a gear we would hope to see this reflected in Raha International School attracting a more significant core of talent drawn from dance, music, theatre and the broader performing arts. Interestingly, as it stands, Raha International School does not match its high G&T student quotient in academic disciplines across to the Arts, despite being a flourishing school for Performing Arts disciplines. Prospective parents should note that Raha International School scored highly in our annual awards for the Best Schools in the Emirates for Performing Arts.

We, with our sister site WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, have long been campaigning for schools to introduce scholarship and bursary programmes, something finally bearing fruit in a number of prestige schools across the sector. Bringing a broader core of talent into schools drawn from families who would not otherwise afford the fees benefits all students – launching new scholarships on the back of its new flagship arts centre might be a good place to start.

Sports facilities at Raha International School are equally as impressive, including two gymnasiums; four tennis courts; two pools including a learner and 25M main pool; and two football pitches. The grounds, as above, are a striking feature of the school and there is no absence of inspiring places for children to explore and exercise.

The school’s (much loved) Founding Head (Principal), Wayne MacInnis, was the Founding Head  invested a decade in establishing and building Raha over a nine-year period and drew particular praise from ADEC inspectors for the the longevity of his tenure another telling indicator of Taaleem’s investment in its schools. Following his retirement, Mr MacInnis has now (August 2016) been replaced by Mr. Iain Colledge, who brings with him more than two decade’s international originally rooted in UK primary provision, a critical phase of education which still drives his passion. Links to a whichschooladvisor round table exploration of the differences between IB and British approaches to the Early Years phases can be found below. Mr Colledge is a trained OFSTED Inspector, has extensive experience in establishing UK academy schools, worked, immediately prior to joining Raha, as the European Early Years Project Director for the British Council, has more than 15 years all-through international leadership experience drawn from schools across  Libya, Bahrain, Jordan and Thailand – and is an expert on school start-ups and improvement. Taaleem faced significant challenges in finding a top flight educator for its arguably flagship school and whilst early days, independent feedback to both ourselves and our sister site whichschooladvisor has been uniformly positive.

One feature of Raha International School also stands out in this regard – its publication of its faculty across the school. We wish more school’s would do this – the best schools inevitably reflect a Head’s ability to build teams. Too often in the Emirates, teaching and administrative staff are not sufficiently recognised for their equally important role, with the Head, in delivering an outstanding school. It is also telling that schools who are unable to retain their staff are almost uniformly silent in publishing their names and contribution.

Prospective parents of weaker to mixed ability children should note that Raha International School does use academic performance in its entrance assessment of children from Grade 1 to decide final offers of places at the school, but only when demand outstrips supply of available places. Otherwise RIS is inclusive of the full spectrum of abilities and SEN (including G&T). 50% of all students entering the school have English as an Additional Language [EAL] and more than 80 nationalities are represented across the school.

One previous frustration with Raha International School was its choosing not to be transparent in publishing the attainment of its students in any phase of the IB programmes. This set it behind leading schools which recognise the importance of prospective parents being able to properly benchmark any school’s academic provision. This is fundamental information needed by parents. Raha have now addressed this by fully publishing its 2016 results. We would hope that eventually this will be given higher profile in the information available to parents, prospective and existing, together with year-on-year data so that its becomes clearer how the school is performing over time.

For the sake of completeness here, ADEC published the following relevant insight which we quote in full:

“For the relatively small cohort of Grade 12 students, results in the Diploma Programme (DP) are good or better in most subjects with 60% attaining Level 5 and above in English, Arabic, the sciences and languages. In mathematics, attainment is acceptable. Nearly three out of every four students score sufficiently well to earn an IB Diploma.”

Raha International School justifiably we think celebrates its 95% pass rate – prospective parents should recognise that this is an inclusive school. More importantly, however, it is indicative of the quality of the school’s understanding of, and attention to each child that its predicted outcomes/grade predictions for 85% of children were within one point of what each student achieved. Raha deserves considerable praise for publishing this information – and we believe that it is the first school in the Emirates to do so. However, what is now needed is for this to be translated into comprehensive value-added data for parents – how Raha International School meets the potential of each child, or improves it

Ensuring children meet flightpaths – and getting these accurately assessed is critical. We would like to see Raha International School now openly publish this flightpath data in full each year. Arguably it is this information that is most needed by parents – and it is of particular importance for prospective parents of inclusive schools which are often unfairly judged against academically selective schools which, whilst achieving high results, may well in practice have under-achieved against the flightpaths of already bright children.

Raha International School also provides information on the scholarships and placements achieved by many of its students to universities worldwide. Impressive as this is (successes also picked up by ADEC), we would like to see this matched by much greater transparency in the publication of value-added and more detailed analysis of results.  We would also like to see publication of newsletters available to prospective parents. Newsletters provide a window into the life of a school beyond marketing and controlled messages. We still believe that Raha International School could do much more to bring its clearly outstanding school to life for prospective parents.

Raha International School is, in our view, a flagship school for the Emirates and we believe that the responsibilities of this should weigh heavy on it to set the benchmark in transparency so that other schools are guided to up their game.

If this seems negative, it is because Raha International School sets a very high benchmark for school provision elsewhere.

ADEC picks up many outstanding features of the school. These include:

  • A caring, supportive and inclusive learning environment
  • Bullying or any form of unkindness are very rare
  • Teaching to develop critical thinking, problem solving, innovation and independent thinking is outstanding in all sections of the school
  • Inspirational teaching engages students through challenging, enquiry based projects
  • Students who learn at a different pace to their peers, and those who see the world differently, are provided with individual pathways that enable them to learn successfully alongside their peers
  • Students are constantly being supported in enabling their own ideas become a reality
  • Broad and balanced curriculum that successfully prepares students to continue as life-long learners
  • Attainment at the end of the primary years is outstanding with almost all students achieving above the minimum grade level
  • Innovation is supported in all aspects of the curriculum
  • Whole hearted commitment of the Board, principal and teachers to create a happy school that is continuously improving
  • Students make dramatic progress in the creative and performing arts
  • Nearly all of the 71 students who left at the end of Grade 12 were awarded a place at university. Of these 7% gained places at universities within the Gulf region and 83% at universities outside the Gulf region

ADEC picks up on two areas of improvement.

The first is related to the teaching of Islamic and UAE Social Studies in which the school is encouraged to teach the subject with the same inspirational methodology and encouragement of critical thinking used elsewhere across the IB curriculum.

The second area is the more important. ADEC picks up the real challenges in an inclusive school of delivering the IB Diploma curriculum. The IB DP is extremely challenging and, understandably, many less academic students moving from the Middle Years Programme [MYP] will struggle. ADEC argues that RIS must:

“Strengthen the guidance available to students and parents in the middle school to …. prepare students and their parents at an early point in their MYP to build awareness of the rigour of the DP.”

This is a fundamental issue for all IB schools that are not academically selective, but have to deliver a hugely demanding programme which for some students simply may not be the most appropriate curriculum. The issue is resolved more easily in schools that run parallel IB and International A Level curricular – or which, in Dubai, provide the CP programme above

Bottom line? In summary, Raha International School is an outstanding school with a pure IB offer that for the right children will certainly deliver. As with all schools, it is imperative that prospective parents visit the school to calculate the degree of fit between the IB programme, and the gifts of their child(ren).

We do believe that Taaleem could do more in the area of bursaries and scholarships – as well as improving its transparency and communication of the many outstanding features of RIS. We would like to see the IB CRP programme developed across all Taaleem IB schools to improve post 16 flexibility in meeting the differing needs and gifts of students – but this lies in the hands of ADEC and Raha International School cannot be faulted for its commitment to inclusive schooling and meeting the needs of all children given its constraints.

Ultimately, in terms of its care of students, teaching, whole child development and ongoing investment in students, Raha International School deserves its A1 Outstanding rating, and a place in the top tier of IB schools in the Emirates.

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

Outstanding

2016/17 Rating Primary / Elementary

Outstanding

2016/17 Rating Secondary / Middle

Outstanding

2016/17 Post 16 / High

Outstanding

2015/16 Overall KHDA / ADEC Rating

Outstanding

Type of school

Private, for profit

WSA Good School

Yes

Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

EY1: 36,100
EY2: 37,900
YEAR 1: 49,700
YEAR 2: 49,700
YEAR 3: 49,700
YEAR 4: 49,700
YEAR 5: 49,700
YEAR 6: 49,700
YEAR 7: 56,900
YEAR 8: 56,900
YEAR 9: 56,900
YEAR 10: 56,900
YEAR 11: 56,900
YEAR 12: 56,900
YEAR 13: NA

Curriculum

International Baccalaureate:
International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme [IB PYP]
International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme [IB MYP]
International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme [IB DP]

External Exam Boards

International Baccalaureate Organisation [IBO]
The Council of International Schools (CIS)
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)

IB DipM Pass Rate

95% (2016)
Notes
(1) 90% 2015

IB DipM Average Grade

32
Notes:
(1) 40% of the grades graded 6 or 7

Selective

Fully inclusive. The school does not discriminate on grounds of disability, Special Educational Needs [SEN], nationality, additional language status or sex.
Notes:
(1) Applications are considered fairly on a "first come, first served" basis defined by the date of application.
(2) Applications testing for Grade 1 and above is NOT designed to admit those children who score most highly. Testing, rather, is designed exclusively to establish a baseline so that the school is able to track their progress in school and make adaptations accordingly. Adaptations may include, for example, Gifted & Talented (G&T) ) programmes for very high performing children in a given subject, or support provision including, for example, that for English as an Additional Language (EAL) or Special Educational Needs (SEN). Admission to Grades 1-12 undergo entrance examinations are in cognitive ability, English and Mathematics.
(3) The school has significantly invested in EAL and SEN so that it can welcome children regardless of ability. However, there is a maximum capacity for the EAL and SEN programmes in order that the support needed for individual children is not diluted. As a result, in cases where demand for SEN or EAL outstrips the available resources, there may be times when a student is wait-listed for support.
(4) "We do not, for example, test 100 children for 10 seats and then take the top 10. We test the first ten applications we receive and as long as we can accommodate them, they will be all be offered seats."
(5) The school is ONLY selective from Grade 9 and above. This is unavoidable as the school has no alternatives to the full International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB DP) - and it would be unfair on children to accept them at the school without the necessary grounding that will have been completed for children who have studies at Raha from EY or Early grades. This might be reviewed should the school be able eventually to offer alternatives to the highly demanding IB DP programmes.
(6) The school does NOT have Arabic testing as part of its admissions testing.
(7) EY1 and EY2 applications are not subject to formal assessment.

Waiting list

Yes

Value Added

Not published

Number of Students

1836

Teacher to Student Ratio

EY1 - 2: 1:11
Grades 1 - 12: 1:20
Notes:
(1) EY1-EY2: 24 students per class maximum
(2) Grade 1- Grade 10: maximum 26 students per class
(3) Grade 11-Grade 12: maximum 22 students per class

Largest nationality teachers

British (but strong international mix)

Teacher turnover

Not published (WSA projected LOW)

Year opened

2006

Location

Al Raha Gardens, Khalifa City A, Abu Dhabi

Student composition

Emirati: 15%
US/American: 14%
British: 7%
Canadian: 6%
6% Australian
5% German
<2% from each of 69 other countries Nationalities: 80 Languages spoken: 45 EY: 245 Primary: 764 Middle: 671 High: 156 Gifted and Talented (Academic): 66 Special Educational Needs (weaker spectrum): 36 Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): 5 Physical disability: 4 English as an Additional Language [EAL]: 50%

Gender

Mixed, co-educational

School canteen

Yes

Owner

Taaleem (The Taaleem Group)

Admissions Telephone

+971 (0) 2 556 1567 ext. 130/120

Web Address
Attainment Nur SEM

86.6%

Attainment Pri SEM

86.6%

Attainment Sec SEM

80%

Attainment Post-16 SEM

73.3%

Progress Nur SEM

80%

Progress Pri SEM

93.3%

Progress Sec SEM

93.3%

Progress Post-16 SEM

93.3%

Arabic Native Primary Results (Native)

60%

Arabic Secondary Results (Native)

60%

Arabic Post-16 Results (Native)

80%

Arabic Primary Results (Add.)

80%

Arabic Secondary Results (Add.)

80%

Arabic Post-16 Results (Add.)

80%

Islamic St. Primary Results

40%

Islamic St. Secondary Results

40%

Islamic St. Post-16 Results

40%

Leadership

100%

Community

100%

Facilities

100%

Quality of teaching

100%

Student personal responsibility

100%

Quality of curriculum

100%

School Governance

100%

SEN Provision

100%

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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Academic
Value
ExtraCurricula
Languages
Sports
Arts & Drama
Teaching
Communications
Warmth
Differentiation
SEND Provision
Scl Community
Scl Facilities