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Al Ain International School, Al Nayadat, Al Ain
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Al Ain International School, Al Nayadat, Al Ain

by June 8, 2016

Al Ain International School is quite extraordinary: It is an exceptionally good school by any standards, but it achieves this in ways that you have to experience to really appreciate just what has been achieved for children – and what they achieve for each other, their community and the school.

This is one of those schools that is resolutely not about numbers.

Our sister site,, has long campaigned for schools to calculate “value-added”, in simple terms, what a school achieves with its children from where they start on entering a school. Many schools will advertise themselves on the basis of stellar examination results – but this is less of an achievement if they choose only the most academic children to begin with. You would, should expect such schools to perform.

It is a much, much more difficult task to welcome children inclusively and, then, take those children on an educational adventure filled with such levels of inspiration, concentrated individual care, and depth of education, that all children, regardless of ability, meet their potential. This, in a nutshell, is the story of Al Ain International School – and also, the driver behind why ADEC too, identifies the school as A2 Very Good with Outstanding features.

As the school, under its highly respected (and transparently kind) Principal, Chris Nourse, notes:

“We aim to provide a caring and supportive, happy, secure and purposeful school environment for all children which will allow them to thrive academically, socially and emotionally, make, and act upon, informed choices concerning moral, ethical and aesthetic issues, and where they can take pride in their achievements and the success of others. The ambition is success for all – be it in the classrooms, on the playing fields or on the stage.”

Al Ain International School (AAIS) was established by Aldar Academies in September 2011. It was the first Aldar Academy to open outside the capital and from launch rapidly secured an ADEC A3 grading by the KHDA – rare for a school in phased launch. At that time internal notes from described a school “seriously firing on all cylinders” and today the school’s evolution and performance in such a short space of time is described by our sister site as “seriously impressive – few school groups could have achieved this kind of level of performance so quickly.”

AAIS divides provision between Primary School and Secondary School. The curriculum follows a modified British curriculum throughout, balancing the strengths of the English National Curriculum with the life of the Emirati context and local Al Ain culture.

Primary School extends between FS 1 and Year 6. Children study under the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) between the ages of 3 and 5 in FS1 – 2; Key Stage 1 between the ages of 5 – 7 in Years 1 – 2, and Key Stage 2 between the ages of 7 and 11 in Years 3 – 6. Subject provision is structured to begin and evolve through school life at key stages. Subjects include French; Arabic; Music; Physical Education (PE); swimming; Islamic Studies (for Muslim students), English, Mathematics, Science, Computing (ICT); Geography; History; Art & Design; and, Design Technology.


Secondary school (lower school) takes children through Key Stage 3 between the ages of 11 – 15 in Years 7 – 10, building on the foundations established in English; Drama; Mathematics; Science; Arabic (native & non-native); Islamic Studies (native); Social Studies (native & non-native); Art & Design; Technology; Geography; History; ICT; French; Spanish; Music; PE & Swimming; PSHE & Citizenship; and, Business & Enterprise.

The aim is to powerfully prepare students for seamless transition to study for IGCSE and to instill a profound love of learning. Year 10 provision opens in September this year (2016) and full, all-through provision to GCE A Level will be complete by 2019.

School buildings are simple but pretty – with arched balconies, coloured washes and thoughtful design touches around every corner. It’s not a bells and whistles building – no silver and glass. That’s not the point. The school took over older government buildings which Taaleem then breathed life into – protecting the Arabic feel and rootedness but adding, no expense spared, all the modern touches of a school able to meet every need of its children.

Facilities include 2 swimming pools; landmark auditorium with professional theatre set-up; central library; large gymnasium; multi-purpose air conditioned sports hall; extensive playing fields including an astro-turf multi-use sports pitch; prayer rooms and dedicated on-site mosque for Muslim students; large shaded courtyards and play spaces; medical clinic; Information and Communications Technology (ICT) suites; Dance Studios; dedicated language rooms; abundantly equipped music rooms with in-house provision for Piano, Flute, Clarinet, Saxophone, Trumpet, keyboards and Drums; specialist Science labs by specialism; Art rooms; design and technology(D&T) labs for Food Technology and Textiles; netball and basketball courts; cricket nets; and dedicated athletics facilities including a fabulous running track.

Core sports include football, rugby, cricket, swimming, netball, basketball and dance.

Extracurricular activities (ECAs) and enrichment opportunities are beyond extensive, ranging from clubs to camps, a (brilliant) school Council, musical productions (following through from classroom learning); all-school days including National and International Day, Pink Day, Book Days and non-uniform days; football, swimming, basketball, art, music, cooking, drama, construction; sewing; theme days; visiting authors & speakers; United Nation’s Model Montessori Conference, and Choir. However, in so many ways, it is hard at Al Ain to determine when enrichment and ECAs start and end – the whole school curriculum and enrichment environment so expertly blend that school and its children is enriched quite naturally, and integrally.

School transparency is outstanding, and gains our first A+ rating. Monthly newsletters are works of art – the depth of endeavor that goes into producing these is quite something. These mini novellas takes parents into the heart of school life, whether describing the latest fairy tale ball, or each child’s success as part of the school House System (Quartz (white); Emerald (green); Garnet (red); Onyx (black). This level of communication makes real the school’s engagement with parents, demonstrate beyond words its absolute openness to prospective parents so they can understand what the school offers for children beyond marketing hubbub – and demonstrates the confidence and pride of teachers in sharing the successes and journeys of children under their care. Information elsewhere is equally as clear, open, inspirational and impressive. Prospective parents can access newsletters directly here.

In post for almost three years, the impact of Al Ain International’s Principal Christopher Nourse has been transformational. He brings to the school two decade’s experience in teaching, drawn mainly from the UK – but also from his role as Founding Principal of Aldar’s ADEC “Outstanding” Al Muna Primary, one of only three schools in the Emirate to be awarded the Abu Dhabi School Inspectorate’s highest accolade. Whichschooladvisor independent feedback has been outstanding, descriptions ranging from “very kind”, “humorous” to “determined” and “utterly inspirational.” He is known for being exceptionally child-centred in his approach to leadership, placing confidence-building and reading as core priorities for driving the passion of children to learn. Children need to believe in themselves – that anything is possible – and a school’s role is to show them how to follow their journey and secure those ambitions. He described the importance of reading with typical conviction:

“It’s about ‘getting in the boat’ with your child and sailing away together on an ocean of imagination to a faraway land of possibilities and dreams. Reading is about the magic of Harry Potter, the ridiculous brilliance of Roald Dahl, the impishness of the Wimpy Kid – and the bravery of Julia Donaldson’s “mouse that took a walk in the deep dark wood.” Reading ignites the switch that leads to a veritable treasure chest of images, thoughts and dreams that transport, and transform.” Christopher Nourse, Principal, Al Ain International School.

ADEC draws out a number of features that highlight the school’s strengths:

  • The determination, enthusiasm and commitment of leadership and staff
  • Al Ain’s hugely nurturing school environment
  • The school’s ability to take students from very low starting points to beyond expectations and flightpaths – children making good, and often better, progress as they transition through the key stages
  • Highly effective support for English as an additional language (EAL) and special educational needs (SEN)
  • Strong, highly effective relations and communications with parents
  • Highly effective personal development, guidance and support for all students
  • Outstanding school governance
  • Outstanding care of children

Bottom line: We cannot recommend Al Ain International School highly enough. Prospective parents will struggle to find a more caring, child-centred, school – driven to care and nurture the gifts of every child, of every ability.

Go to the FULL REVIEW on

Details to consider
Type of school

Private, hybrid
(1) Aldar Academy profits are all re-invested into the further development of its schools, facilities and learning facilities for the benefit of the students learning under its care.

WSA Good School

Under review 2016-17

Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

FS1: 39,600
FS2: 39,600
YEAR 1: 39,600
YEAR 2: 39,600
YEAR 3: 39,600
YEAR 4: 39,600
YEAR 5: 39,600
YEAR 6: 39,600
YEAR 7: 48,510
YEAR 8: 48,510
YEAR 9: 51,975
YEAR 10: Under phased launch for September 2016
YEAR 11: Under phased launch for September 2017
YEAR 12: Under phased launch for September 2018
YEAR 13: Under phased launch for September 2019


National Curriculum for England
Key Stage 1 - 3
Launching 2016 - 2019:
International A' Level

External Exam Boards


Number of A Levels offered

Phased launch 2018-19

A Levels offered

Phased launch 2018-19

A Level A* to A

Phased launch 2018-19

A Level A* to C

Phased launch 2018-19


Phased launch 2016-17


Phased launch 2016-17

Number of I/GCSEs Offered

Phased launch 2016-17

I/GCSEs offered

Phased launch 2016-17


(1) The school does not accept students above Year 3 with little or no English
(2) The school does not accept students with the most complex Special Educational Needs (SEN) which it does not have the resources to effectively nurture
(3) In some cases children may be required to take an assessment before entry to determine their prior attainment in English and mathematics for the purposes of establishing a baseline/flightpath

Waiting list


Value Added

Not published

Number of Students

Capacity: 960
Current role: 713

Teacher to Student Ratio

KG/ FS: 1:20
Years 1-10: 1:22

Largest nationality teachers


Teacher turnover


Year opened



Al Nayadat, Al Ain, Abu Dhabi

Student composition

Emirati: 43%
British: 16%
US: 9%
Total nationalities: 44+
KG: 163
Primary: 439
Secondary: 111
Special Educational Needs (SEN): 88
Gifted & Talented (G&T): 34


Mixed, co-educational

School canteen



Aldar Academies

Admissions Telephone

+971 (0) 3 715 1000

Web Address
Attainment Nur SEM


Attainment Pri SEM


Attainment Sec SEM

60% (Middle School)

Attainment Post-16 SEM


Progress Nur SEM


Progress Pri SEM


Progress Sec SEM

80% (Middle School)

Progress Post-16 SEM


Arabic Native Primary Results (Native)


Arabic Secondary Results (Native)

40% (Middle School)

Arabic Post-16 Results (Native)


Arabic Primary Results (Add.)


Arabic Secondary Results (Add.)

40% (Middle School)

Arabic Post-16 Results (Add.)


Islamic St. Primary Results


Islamic St. Secondary Results

40% (Middle School)

Islamic St. Post-16 Results








Quality of teaching


Student personal responsibility


Quality of curriculum


School Governance


SEN Provision



• "High Performing", A2, "Very Good" school status - noted for its exceptional and "Outstanding features"
• WSA "Good School"
• Outstanding value added in drawing children from a broad range of abilities and consistently exceeding projected baselines and flightpaths for what would be expected from their starting points at the school
• Outstanding Governance
• Outstanding whole child development
• Outstanding care of children
• Outstanding, inspirational, conviction-led Principal


• Aldar has yet to roll-out bursary or scholarship provision - something that we believe fits well with its commitment to re-invest in its children and drive the standards of education in the Emirates

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Innovative, child-centred, inspired and inspiring, caring, rigorous.

Aldar Academies' Al Ain International School may not yet have the Outstanding rating on paper - but in practice a school that parents, teachers, Aldar - and students can be sublimely proud of.

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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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