“Al Ain Academy is a school where you can feel the vibrancy, warmth and nurture. It is a place that your family can call ‘home’.
We have the reputation as being one of the best schools in Al Ain.
Fully co-educational, we deliver a dynamic education, implementing the National Curriculum for England, tailored to our place in the world as UAE citizens and residents.
We invest heavily in the recruitment and development of the very best teaching staff.
School should be engaging, fun and challenging. Learning and enjoyment go hand in hand and we are very proud that our pupils are motivated and captivated by their lessons.
This extends to our Extra-Curricular programme that allows children to select from a vibrant programme of clubs to attend.
Relationships with our parents is vital to the success of the school.”
Ian Pugh, Principal, Al Ain Academy
The students reported that “being an Al Ain Academy student is something amazing”. The school’s leadership is driving improvements in the quality of teaching and robust assessment practices of all ages to make excellent progress and achieve very well at the end of each phase.
Leaders and managers have an inspirational effect upon the school community and beyond, proving themselves capable of sustaining outstanding outcomes for students.
Al Ain Academy, formerly, 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.
We have 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) former 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 our internal notes 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.”
Structure and curriculum
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 instil a profound love of learning. Year 10 provision opened in September 2016 and full, all-through provision to GCE A Level in 2019.
GCSE provision we rank very good in breadth of options these including:
- Business Studies
- Computer Science
- Design Technology: Graphics
- Design Technology: Resistant Materials
- Design Technology: Textiles
- English Language
- English Literature
- Physical Education
These options follow through to A’ Level, subject to demand from students.
Facilities and warmth
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.
Celebrating children and school life
School transparency has historically been outstanding, and gained our first A+ rating. Monthly newsletters were works of art – the depth of endeavour that went into producing these was quite something. These mini novellas took 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). We noted at the time of our last report that “..this level of communication makes real the school’s engagement with parents, demonstrating beyond words its absolute openness to prospective parents so they can understand what the school offers for children beyond marketing hubbub. This celebration of children 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.”
In recent years however, the investment in newsletters and projecting the achievements of children outside the school has diminished – this part of a bigger picture it seems by Aldar to limit the information it makes available. This extends to even the basics of curriculum options and a proper individual school prospectus. Instead Aldar chooses to lump schools together in an extended prospectus that tells you almost nothing about its schools and the very unique and special qualities of each. We think this is a real shame.
The same hold true of celebrating the success of students in examinations. With rare exceptions, we struggle to obtain information on examination results from any Aldar school. Other schools inundate us with photographs of happy and delighted students and detailed information benchmarking their performance.
The impact of former Principal Christopher Nourse on the school is hard to overstate – he was transformational. Joining the school in 2014, he brought on his appointment 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. Independent feedback to EDSTATICATM has been outstanding to date, 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.
Mr Nourse currently heads up Aldar’s West Yas Academy – he is arguably their most experienced and powerhouse Head and the move in April 2022 was certainly a loss for the school.
Mr Nourse was followed by current Principal, Ian Pugh and it is to his credit that Mr Pugh has simplified his view of Al Ain Academy to a single word: “incredible.” There is no doubting his passionate belief in his school, its teachers, students and families. It’s a good start to very big shoes to follow in. What we hope now is that he can sort out the complete corporatisation of what was once an individual school with a unique identity, celebrated by its leadership. One thing we do like, although it is a generalisation, is his background and expertise in Primary provision. Too often leaders in Primary education are siloed away and never given a shot at running all-through schools; it is madness and a waste of talent. Real credit to Aldar here. Some of the best Principals we have experienced have a Primary background. Often, although again a generalisation, you see a scale of emotional intelligence and commitment to children you don’t in all-through Heads programmed by numbers and data metrics at the cost of losing sight of the individual child.
We have limited feedback on Mr Nourse, but he is described to us as “passionate,” “deeply committed to British education,” “exceptionally kind”- and “approachable.” He is not a Principal locked in an office – Mr Nourse genuinely cares about students and their future – and plays an active and visible part in the life of the school. The all-round view is that Aldar chose very well for arguably one of its most special and loved schools – you would be hard pressed to find a parent who has something other than positive words to describe him. His impact since joining the school has been “significant” and “positive.”
As of 2022, the time of the school’s last inspection, the school was ranked Very Good with a considerable number of Outstanding features. You can find the full report further down in our review below.
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
We rank the school’s fees as offering strong ROI. Fees are transparent. Parents should note the jump in fees from Year 7.
|Year Group||School Fees Per Annum|
|FS2 – Year 6||40,970|
|Year 7 – Year 8||50,190|
|Year 10 – Year 13||59,320|
ADEK Inspection Report
The following report is an historic snapshot of a school that on its then trajectory we would be expecting to secure Outstanding school status at the time of its next inspection. We expect this report shortly in 2023-24.irtiqaReport (6)
The Generic Aldar Prospectus
Whilst it tells you little of any substance about the school, we include it here for completeness.Aldar-Academies-Prospectus-2023
Bottom line? The SchoolsCompared.com verdict
This is an important school for Aldar and we think its reputationally important too. We want to see much better communication of the school and it strengths – and given the feedback we have received Mr Pugh is very well placed to deliver this. You can be an outstanding school – but if no one has heard of you, or you do not celebrate the children under your care, the risk is communicating in a vacuum. Many of the issues seem to stem from very tight, overly tight, corporate control of the way schools express their individuality and child achievement.
This said, it is not an overstatement to describe Al Ain Academy as one of the best British schools in Al Ain today. As we said at the time of our last report “we cannot recommend Al Ain International School highly enough.” The same holds true today.
The current BSO rating (2023) of Outstanding is richly deserved in our view.
Investment is evident – and the school retains, in practice if not projection, a warmth and ambition for children rare in schools. Prospective parents will certainly struggle to find a more caring, child-centred, school – driven to care and nurture the gifts of every child, of every ability in Al Ain.
© SchoolsCompared.com. A WhichMedia Group publication. 2023 – 2024. All rights reserved.
(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.
Under review 2016-17
YEAR 1: 40,970
YEAR 2: 40,970
YEAR 3: 40,970
YEAR 4: 40,970
YEAR 5: 40,970
YEAR 6: 40,970
YEAR 7: 50,190
YEAR 8: 50,190
YEAR 9: 53,780
YEAR 10: 59,320
YEAR 11: 59,320
YEAR 12: 59,320
YEAR 13: 59,320
National Curriculum for England
Key Stage 1 - 3
International A' Level
(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
(4) The school is unambiguously academically inclusive in FS1
Current role: Circa 981
KG/ FS: 1:20
Years 1-10: 1:22
Al Nayadat, Al Ain, Abu Dhabi
Total nationalities: 44+
Special Educational Needs (SEN): 88
Gifted & Talented (G&T): 34
+971 (0) 3 715 1000
60% (Middle School)
80% (Middle School)
40% (Middle School)
40% (Middle School)
40% (Middle School)
• "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 new Principal
• Small classes for A Level with outstanding teaching
• Outstanding child progress - arguably what really matters in understanding just how good a school is achiveing academically for its children
• BSO Good School with Outstanding Features
• 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
• What has happened to the celebration of children and outward facing communication?
• Schools intake imbalanced between boys and girls