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Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Cultural District, Saadiyat Island – The Review
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Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Cultural District, Saadiyat Island – The Review

by January 16, 2019

Updated January 2020 – Cranleigh Abu Dhabi 2019 ADEC Inspection, Expanded A Level options, new school Headmaster, Scholarship Programme, verdict 2020

Photograph of the front elevation of Cranleigh Abu Dhabi

One of very few “Good Schools” (its highest award), and an ADEK A1 Outstanding, Highest Performing school with Outstanding Features, Cranleigh Abu Dhabi offers a Tier 1 premium all-through, British-founded, education from FS to Year 13. Cranleigh’s Sixth Form opened its Sixth Form in September 2017 – one of the fastest track, full phase openings of Post 16 provision of any school in the UAE – more on this below.

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi is, for us, a school that that has been quite extraordinarily successful in meeting the ambition, almost vocation, of its Founding Headmaster, Brendan Law, to create an education for children that begins and ends with each child’s personal journey. It is hard to think of another school in the Emirates that has so successfully, and inspirationally, drawn on and captured the heritage of its British public school founding school and then gone on to improve it by focusing, with genuine care and substance, on each individual child’s journey. Given its founding school is Cranleigh, a real Tier 1 UK heavyweight, this is some accolade.

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi secured, as above, a Very Good school rating following its second ADEK inspection (2017), this seeing Cranleigh Abu Dhabi  reaching the second highest rating awarded by the Inspectorate after just two years of careful phased launch of all-through school provision. We felt, as is perhaps clear from our introduction, at that time, that Cranleigh was already  functioning in key areas already as a Tier 1, Outstanding, beacon school not only within Abu Dhabi, but the Emirates as a whole.

Certainly Cranleigh Abu Dhabi secured, even then, a top “Outstanding” rating in three of the six Performance Standards (personal development, curriculum and care of students) that determine every school’s final ADEK grading.

The 2019 ADEK Outstanding, secured after the school’s only third inspection, was, in our view, richly deserved.

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi Sixth Form


In our last review of Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, we took the school to task for what we perceived as hugely restrictive subject choice at A’ Level for such an otherwise outstanding school. It is certainly true that in its early years,  Cranleigh Abu Dhabi provided a choice of only 12 subjects including Further Mathematics.

  • Arabic (second Language)
  • Business Studies
  • Computer Science
  • English Literature
  • Geography
  • Mathematics
  • Further Mathematics
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • History
  • Economics

To be fair, these were, and are today, provided in conjunction with the outstanding Extended Project Qualification (EPQ). With the EPQ, A Levels arguably deliver much of the bigger picture thinking celebrated in the International Baccalaureate, but with the benefits of the greater depth of study rightly celebrated in A Level.

This meant, however, in the early days, that, first, subject choice at A Level was very limited. Two subjects, Economics and Business Studies, cannot be studied together (universities treat them as a single subject because of their similarities). And, in practice, for pure Arts students not seeking a business or Economics A Level, the choice was limited to studying English Literature, Geography and History.

Second, Cranleigh Abu Dhabi provided no technical stream alternative at all. BTEC is now powerfully supported by ADEK, is offered by Cranleigh in the UK – and its hard to see why subjects like BTEC Engineering, only available in BTEC, should not be part of the subject mix offered to young men and women.

Our view then, as now, is that BTEC technical stream options should be offered as a matter of course by all British schools at Sixth Form, and in the case of clearly Outstanding schools, as is the case in our view with Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, come as part of the depth and breadth of subject choice expected as a matter of course. The bigger picture here is T Levels which should come on stream in 2021.

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi originally justified the limited choice by claiming that “it is the pure, or what Russell Group term facilitating subjects, that remain the most valued.” This statement, for us, did not, and does not, hold water – and is one fundamentally at odds with the approach adopted by its UK Cranleigh parent which shines through the breadth, not limitation, of its subject offer. The Russel Group also do not state that these subjects are the most valued. The measure is used in practice to define subjects that enable to students to keep options open. there is no argument that other subjects are not valuable.

In 2018 and 2019 subject choice has now been creditably, radically and impressively transformed.

We now have exactly the sort of subject choice on offer that we would expect from Cranleigh – and it’s competitive with the very best in the UAE.

Further subjects on offer in 2018-19 now include:

  • Design and Technology (this in part way addressing technical subject provision alternately provided with BTEC)
  • Fine Art
  • Drama and Theatre
  • French
  • Spanish
  • Psychology
  • Government and Politics

The revised Sixth Form prospectus can be found below:

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi Sixth Form 2019

As of 2019, we now rate Sixth Form provision at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi as outstanding.

Prospective parents should note that Cranleigh is resolutely British. There will be no International Baccalaureate. The commitment to IGCSE and A’ Level is absolute and there is belief here that these remain the world’s gold standard academic qualifications in enabling children to blend the broadest education to 16 years, with the freedom to specialise and study in depth those subjects that inspire and engage them in their two pre-university years.

For Cranleigh, this model, which inherently aligns with the natural course of each child’s development, is only available in a pure British education. It is one, of course, that comes alive only when that core British academic context is matched with the broadest possible whole child education to complete the circle.

Its location helps – in many ways you cannot understand Cranleigh without taking in the context of its visionary, culturally inter-linked surroundings (7 museums including the Guggenheim, Zayed National and Louvre Museums), Manarat Al Saadiyat, Tier 1 shared facilities (New York University) and broader sporting provision (golf courses, marina and a location with 1KM of the beach for sailing and related pursuits).

Saadiyat is effectively the campus of Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, as Cranleigh Abu Dhabi is Saadiyat’s educational hub – and the children of Cranleigh themselves the natural recipients of the educational vision and ambition that underpins the foundation of Saadiyat as a home for the future generations to develop across every aspect of its afforded global academic, spiritual, cultural and historic driven facilities.

With an Emirates filled to bursting with inspirational “firsts”, arguably Saadiyat takes on a powerful role of grounding those developments and firsts in a global historic context, one pointing equally to past, present and future. In fact, it is hard to think of a more dynamic, inspirational – and important – context for a child’s education anywhere in the Emirates.

Four years in planning, and launched in 2014 with provision for students between Foundation and Year 9, Cranleigh Abu Dhabi has grown from 800 to 1200 plus pupils and is currently educating pupils to Year 11/IGCSE. Sixth form education provides Cranleigh Abu Dhabi with an eventual maximum capacity of 2000 students (although the school speaks of a comfortable eventual, intimate, role of around 1550 children).

The aim, working closely with Cranleigh UK, has been to translate the underlying “meaning” of the UK “parent” school to a new school with its own life and culture, this focused on the local Abu Dhabi context, broader Emirati culture and the (astonishing) cultural richness afforded by Saadiyat Island.

The school’s motto, Ex Cultu Robur, translates as “From Culture Comes Strength”, this reflecting, here, those cultural strengths of Saadiyat, the crucible of creativity and cultural exchange that comes from a nationality-inclusive, hugely cosmopolitan role – but, most importantly, the broader context of whole child, added value education that ensures each child’s education is so much more than the sum of its academic parts.

The ambition of Cranleigh Abu Dhabi is uncompromising – no less than to be “the flagship school in Abu Dhabi with a whole child curriculum second to none.” It is also worth noting that Cranleigh UK’s role has not simply been restricted to the school’s development; faculty drawn from Cranleigh UK’s senior leadership take a central role in the Abu Dhabi school’s (outstanding) Board of Governors.

It should not be surprising then that the overall sense is of a school being built to a design/ethos rather than a budget. It is clear that Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, as far as possible, has its eye on mirroring all the feel of a Tier 1 UK independent, in its intangible cultural “Britishness” (so difficult to define), commitment to building a moral compass, but also practically, in blending extensive (and beautiful) grounds and nods to traditional design. Of course, behind this lies all the biting edge that comes from investment in the tools children will need to have an impact in the technology driven world that increasingly defines us – as well as the broader arts, musical and cultural facilities to deliver to each child’s identified vocation and gifts.

Built over seven hectares of land on an 18-acre site between the cultural and beach districts of Saadiyat, Cranleigh Abu Dhabi is cleverly placed under 2KM from New York University and the Museum Quarter and the spectrum of leisure facilities from Saadiyat Beach Golf Course to Saadiyat Beach. Effectively students can walk to any one of Saadiyat’s attractions, each essentially extending the school campus as inspirational attractants on its horizon and deliberately blurred boundaries.

Facilities and Sport

Facilities at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi are Tier 1, including a fully digital campus; dance studios; drama studios, separate boys and girls houses offering full-boarding and individualised day and weekly boarding options (phased launch); Junior School; Senior school; Junior and Senior Dining Rooms; music rooms; 150-seat Recital and Lecture Hall; professional theatre facilities; three libraries; Science labs by specialism; IT labs; Art & Design labs; 650-seat auditorium (shared); on-campus teacher accommodation block; Art Department; 2 Music Schools; extensive playgrounds and recreation spaces by phase; a plethora of informal social areas areas (including a parent’s Café and meeting hub currently being trialled); and Black Box theatre.

Sporting facilities on their own terms are equally impressive at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, but, like school facilities, are particularly so when seen in the context of Saadiyat as a whole. They include a landmark 2,900 square metre Indoor Sports Complex; multi-purpose sports hall; six badminton courts; two full size basketball courts; Indoor cricket nets; separate gymnasium; dance studio; two shaded swimming pools – a 25m competition pool and a 10m learner pool; two grass pitches for rugby, football and cricket; multi-purpose tennis court, netball court, and outdoor basketball court area; full size Astroturf pitch (2017); four additional tennis courts (2017); and, 19,300 square metres of outdoor fields and landscaping. Cranleigh Abu Dhabi has an established partnership with New York University which considerably add to these.

Core sports include girls and boys football; cricket; dance; athletics; badminton; basketball; swimming; field hockey; gymnastics; martial arts; netball; riding; Rounders (for boys and girls); rugby; sailing; golf (at the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club); tennis; and, beach, indoor and school-based outdoor volleyball.

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi includes ECAs and enrichment within the school day as far as possible as integral to a Cranleigh education (compared with alternative opt-in approaches). ECAs and integral enrichment are wide-ranging and we can only touch on theme here. They include Music (including the spectrum of instrument lessons, orchestra and  band); choir; themed events (National Day, International Day); competitive sports programmes; guest speaker programme; Drama Group; and a national and international trips/visit programme. Specialist ECAs, including golf and Taekwondo, will more traditionally be delivered as options outside the school day.

Because Cranleigh Abu Dhabi balances equal importance to the academic, and co-Curricular aspects of school life, the aim is that whole child provision goes tangibly beyond rhetoric. This equality of emphasis is also matched by the importance ascribed to the pastoral care of children by the school, this seen as the third pillar of the Cranleigh experience:

“However good the academics are, if the children are not happy, they are not going to succeed.” Simon Kenworthy. Head of Preparatory. Cranleigh Abu Dhabi

The Founding Headmaster of Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, Brendan Law, was the founding Principal of the Tier 1, ADEC Band A2 Brighton College, rated as a Very Good School with Outstanding Features, a WhichSchoolAdvisor elite Good school – and one of the top 10 highest performing schools in the Emirate.

A join honours psychology and English major, by training, graduating from Port Elizabeth, Mr Law brought with him two decades in education, with eight years as Headmaster of the highly respected, Chichester, UK-based Westbourne House (British Preparatory) School immediately prior to moving to the Emirate.

Feedback to noted a conviction-led, driven, hugely compassionate personality, with very high levels of commitment to student welfare and development as well as a pioneering spirit. Mr Law also served as the Director of Education for TDIC (Tourism Development and Investment Company), the Abu Dhabi government’s founders and owners of the school, overseeing educational provision across Saadiyat Island.

His sense of purpose in creating an inclusive, resolutely non elitist, school that focuses on children individually, their welfare, sense of moral compass, academic and broadest cultural education, was unquestionable. The capacity of a visionary school Head to create the extraordinary is so clearly brought to life at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi and without doubt, for us, Mr Law played a defining role in Cranleigh’s identity and success:

“Our aim is to be an absolutely outstanding school, not less than the flagship school in Abu Dhabi. Here is the key point though. We will focus on three things in terms of each child’s academic development.
First; effort. We want to encourage each child’s effort.  Effort is the nucleus of success.
Second, we will work with each child individually, to encourage the best attainment grades for each child individually, for them.
But, third, and most important of all, we will track and monitor each child’s progress. We want to show parents the excellent progress of each child, the wonderful “value-addedness” that comes with an education at Cranleigh.
This is what really, really, matters. Whether a child is absolutely at the top of their year group in getting the best attainment grades, or whether they are below average in terms of pure attainment grades, matters much, much, less than how well each and every child is progressing according to their ability, their journey.” Brendan Law. Headmaster. Cranleigh School.

We were exceptionally impressed at this centrifugal, added value focus of Cranleigh Abu Dhabi at inception – and hope that the school will now be transparent in publishing this data – something we and are our sister site,, believe is of central importance for prospective, and existing, parents to be able to properly benchmark any school and hold it to account.

We know that Cranleigh is working on ways to try and measure added-value, and in its broadest context to include academic and whole child development. We accept that this is a challenge given the inherently transient nature of education in the Emirates in which a number of  children will return mid-education to their home countries.

However, we think there are ways of doing this, for example, by implementing calculations that weight scholarships and bursaries for local families, including those whose means do not afford them the opportunity of a private education. Developing a methodology for measuring added value is a complex area, but adapting Progress 8 for the UAE context we believe is possible with the will, commitment and ambition. Cranleigh Abu Dhabi is arguably very well placed to take a leading role in this.

Mr Law left Cranleigh Abu Dhabi in 2018 to take up a role as VP of Education for GEMS Education. The new Cranleigh School Abu Dhabi Headmaster, Michael Wilson, joined Cranleigh Abu Dhabi in July 2018 from Cranleigh Preparatory School in the UK where he was Headmaster for ten years. Importantly, Mr Wilson worked closely with Mr Law in establishing the school and was the author of the school’s original all-through curriculum plan as well as being engaged at the heart of business planing for the school. Mr Wilson has been a Board member of Cranleigh Abu Dhabi since 2014.

An Inclusive School

Other stand-out features include the steadfast commitment to a maximum class size of 18 students; an “open door policy for all parents to the school with open, comprehensive and consistent channels of communication and engagement (“we see the partnership with parents as absolutely vital to the success of our children”); the commitment that every single subject taught in the school from Year 5 will be overseen by a specialist teacher, in every part of the curriculum from Mathematics and Dance, to Drama and Science; and, a “hidden [whole child] curriculum” to ensure students are prepared and empowered to “step out onto the world stage when leaving Cranleigh.”

The stretch of academic provision at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi offers significant breadth (see our tables for subject provision), but we think that prospective parents will be equally as impressed with the careful child centred approach that ensures it can be modified to the needs of individual children. For example, for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN), or those facing significant demands in developing English as an Additional Language, the core requirement to study an additional language is removed entirely in order that those children can receive in-depth focus on their area(s) of weakness. The opposite approach holds true, for example, with Gifted and Talented (G&T) mathematicians, for whom the curriculum can be stretched, enabling them to take Mathematics one year early. This, in turn, opens up the option of IGCSE Further Mathematics. The sense is that the school will go out of its way to modify its curriculum as far as practicable to meet the individual needs of its children.

ADEC inspectors, in their opening inspection of Cranleigh Abu Dhabi (2015), drew particular praise in the following areas:

  • Outstanding child care, guidance, protection and support
  • Outstanding governance
  • Exceptional ECA provision and enrichment
  • High quality of school leadership
  • Outstanding development of children’s thinking skills
  • Outstanding student personal development
  • Outstanding student behaviour

In 2017, we think the following areas are particularly worth drawing out from ADEC’s findings for prospective parents:

  • Innovation – “the school is making a significant contribution to the national ambition of nurturing innovative future global leaders.”
  • Facilities – “of the highest quality with extensive specialist facilities” of which stand-out are those provided in ICT and libraries
  • FS phase – broadly outstanding across subjects and in both attainment and the progress children make from entering the school

The Harkness Table

There is one final stand-out feature prospective parents should consider.

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi is pioneering the “Harkness Table” approach to learning when it opens its Sixth Form Centre in September 2017. The Harkness approach switches the traditional model of learning on its head, with students leading lessons and teachers supporting their collaborative discussions and problems solving. The approach is adopted in a large number of prestige Tier 1s worldwide – and depends on schools with the resources to ensure that class sizes are typically in the order of 12 students.

In simple terms the Harkness approach removes the traditional teacher-student model where the teacher presents students with information in classes, typically where students are sat at desks.

In the Harkness model, classrooms are much more like traditional business Boardrooms with a single table. Up to 12 students sit around the table – the teacher generally “floats” and steers discussion when required.

Instead of students coming to class without preparing, in the Harkness model students complete the traditional receiving of information that normally takes place in class before they arrive, usually through solving, or trying to solve a number of problems.

When students then come to class, these problems are discussed and resolved by students having already prepared.

Whilst somewhat counter-intuitive, the approach works just as well for mathematical and scientific study as for the more naturally discursive arts.

Students have a natural investment in lessons because they are discovering solutions to problems they have already invested in trying to solve. They build strong relationships with their peers, learning from each other as well as the teachers. Learning becomes collaborative. Students have no choice but to be engaged. There is no hiding.

The underlying Socratic foundations are that learning does not happen because you have been shown or told something – it requires discovery.

Critically too, students who would not normally speak in classrooms find their voice.

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi’s Deputy Headmaster, Matthew Ford, who directs the academic programme in the Senior School, was part of the inaugural Harkness team whilst at Wellington College:

“Perhaps one of the most powerful aspects of Harkness is how it builds students’ ability to think and react, engaging the brain deeply rather than using it to simply recall factual information. Sixth formers don’t want to be told the answer. They want to craft it for themselves.

Challenges Ahead

Weaknesses are, in general, a natural consequence of any school bedding in provision.

In other areas the school’s capacity to improve is clear and it would be churlish to linger on what are, to all intents and purposes, very limited weaknesses that generally come par for the course of bedding in all new schools in phased launch.

It says something, for example, about the very high expectations on the school that ADEC had identified that Cranleigh Abu Dhabi “lacked modern computer controlled manufacturing technology.” This has now been addressed with investment in 3D printing and production facilities.

This said, in terms of “bells and whistles”, it could be argued that Cranleigh’s focus is inevitably diluted in comparison to that of the ultra-premiums (Planetariums, 50M Olympic pools and the like). But it does not need to. With what it has on its doorstep, the school’s de facto offer is not-less than world class. Given that the school evidences its commitment to integrating that offer – and powerfully within both the academic curriculum and enrichment, the more extreme variants of on-campus bells and whistles simply do not take on the urgency that they do in other more self-contained Tier 1s.

Expectations in this sector are, however, exceptionally high and Cranleigh Abu Dhabi gives itself no room to manoevre in delivering at the highest level. As whichschooladvisor notes, the fees, always lower in Abu Dhabi than in Dubai, are very, very, top end, the highest in the Emirate (exceeding its erstwhile competitor Repton) running at 65,000 AED at FS stages and expected to top 100,00 AED at Grade 13 when the school completes all-through provision. Again, we believe, at least as it stands, the Sixth Form offer at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi falls considerably short, in breadth of subject choice, of that which many parents will expect from the fees.


In our first review of the school we identified some concerns in the area of school transparency, an area that the Abu Dhabi schools Inspectorate only loosely touches on within the remit of its inspections.

Transparency covers a  number of areas of a school’s demonstrable commitment to communicate with prospective parents, and indeed existing parents of a school. In our view, for a school performing at this level, its web site was relatively weak with information only partially updated from its launch counterpart and many cases of  tense irregularity. It had clearly been written in the style of a school still to launch, with some significant gaps in information provision, including added value data and updates on progress with the eventual provision to be offered in Years 12 and 13. Newsletters too, something we believe are vital to celebrating student achievement and bringing to life provision for parents did not compare well with the best in its sector.

This has all now been addressed.

Information, in all its variants and its quality, is a critical means by which parents can hold a school to account.  Cranleigh is now developing much more of a narrative of its own journey, and those of its children, and we are pleased to see a much stronger cross-media presence, internally and externally for prospective parents.

This said, we do believe the issue of added value remains pressing.  If Cranleigh Abu Dhabi is true to its commitment to value-added – and publishes this data for parents, it will re-energise what we believe is probably the single most valuable indicator of the school’s uniqueness and force for good as an educator of its children. As its commitment to value-added is made real and published, then the school will genuinely have the chance to become the beacon school for educational provision it aspires too. As above, Progress 8, with modifications, provides a template, at the least for British schools. We have identified many of the risks that will come from the changes taking place in British education at home to education in the Emirates and internationally), these stemming from the differences that are emerging between international and home variants of the GCSE and A Level. Progress 8 is a key value-added means to address this too. Tellingly, ADEC, in its last report (2017) identifies confusion among some teachers at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi in understanding what is meant by progress and attainment – fundamental stuff. We understand that this has now been addressed – in full.

Scholarship Programme

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi has implemented a hugely impressive, very creditable and meaningful scholarship programme with a very clear rationale. This is very telling of a school building rapidly all the foundations to set the benchmark for outstanding provision in the UAE. Scholarship opportunities extend to every area of school life, including Sixth Form, this telling of the whole child focus of the school. Do not expect a hothouse exams factory but instead a school where the huge spectrum of different gifts of individual children are celebrated and nurtured. 

The scholarship programme at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi extends not only to academic subjects, but also across Sport, the broader Visual and Performing Arts. This is indicative not only of Cranleigh’s whole child approach, but also its recognition that the Gifted and Talented child takes many forms and a school’s role is to discover and nurture children’s gifts in their many forms. Scholarships are available to pupils entering Year 7 and above from September 2017.

“We are particularly looking for children who demonstrate an independence of thought, a real love for their area of excellence and a desire to grow and develop.

Scholarship programmes are an important part of the independent school model, bringing benefits on a number of levels.

At an individual level, scholars are typically offered opportunities to get involved in additional, prestigious activities that stretch and extend them.

And of course, awards can add weight to university applications.

For the student body, scholars act as role models and peer group leaders, demonstrating how potential can be realised and what can be achieved through commitment and determination.

For the school as a whole, scholars add an energy and vibrancy that further add to the community spirit, diversity and excellence.

Importantly, by introducing a scholarship programme that carries fee remission, we can now ensure more children have the opportunity to benefit from the calibre and breadth of education offered here at Cranleigh.”

Brendan Law. Founding Headmaster. Cranleigh Abu Dhabi

In Conclusion…

Cranliegh Abu Dhabi bottom line? The verdict 2020

It is very difficult in a review to do justice to any school, which is after all, ultimately a community of individuals meshing together to deliver both individual and shared aspirations and potential. There are a thousand stories to tell.

One fleeting example to finish can be found in the story of the school’s production of a “Beautiful World Opera” over just five days, a project that saw more than 80 children working together to create something which by any standards was quite extraordinary in its breadth of vision, creativity, capacity to move and ambition. Featuring the Arabic calligraphy and artwork of Emirati of Narjes Noureddine, and based on a poem of the late His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the production showcases just how Cranleigh is nurturing the spectrum of each child’s talents and building links across subject areas, the dramatic arts, ECAs and the cultural context of the school that would be simply unimaginable in many the majority of schools.

It comes as little surprise that Cranleigh Abu Dhabi was  awarded New British International School of the Year at the British International School awards in London. Global recognition for a school in the Emirates is quite an achievement for the school, its visionary Headmaster, the Emirates and, most importantly, Cranleigh’s children. Cranleigh has also been approached to pilot the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) Moral Education initiative which aims to see ethics, personal and social responsibility and development, cultural heritage, civil education, and human rights and responsibilities integrated into every school’s curriculum in the Emirate. We would be hard pressed to think of a more appropriate pilot school, given that this recognition of values already operates at the heart of school life.

We would like to see introduction of bursaries to ensure that no child at Cranleigh, should there be a change in parental circumstances, be required to leave on the basis of fees.  Cranleigh could be a pioneer in this area.

In the future we would like to see all schools setting up ring-fenced scholarship and bursary funds.

Cranleigh’s rationale for the introduction of Scholarships – which to its absolute credit it did almost from “Day One”, is the best argued of any school in the UAE and we particularly applaud its 100% fee remission where necessary. The commitment here to inclusion is outstanding. In our view, even without with completing tier of bursary provision, the scholarship programme at Cranleigh is the most impressive in the UAE. It is worth quoting the following in full:

“Scholarship programmes are an important part of the independent school model, carrying prestige for each scholar and adding weight to university applications.

For the student body, scholars act as role models and peer group leaders, demonstrating how potential can be realised and what can be achieved through commitment and determination.

For the school as a whole, scholars add an energy and vibrancy that further add to community spirit, diversity and excellence.

Finally, and very importantly, by introducing a scholarship programme that carries fee remission, we are able to ensure more children have the opportunity to benefit from the calibre and breadth of education offered here at Cranleigh.

All scholarships attract a fee reduction and are merit-based. Top awards will match current school fees.”

Hugely impressive.

In summary, Cranleigh Abu Dhabi is, with its complete Sixth Form offer now established,  an extraordinary, inspirational, unique and very special school, offering a richness and focus of educational and whole child provision that at least matches, and in many ways exceeds, that available anywhere in the UAE.

This is an important, fabulous, in many ways remarkable school, that sparks the imaginations, passions – and value-added potential – of all its children.

Very 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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Prospective parents should note that scoring is based on projection, is assumptive of completion of planned facilities to current standards, and calculated on the basis of combined whichschooladvisor independent data, inspections and metrics, cross-benchmarking data from Cranleigh UK examinations performance/ISI inspections, information provided by the school and ADEC launch inspection data. We have also scored Cranleigh in the context of the broader cultural and campus links and context provided by Saadiyat Island.

Details to consider
2016/17 Overall ADEC / KHDA Rating

Very Good School, High Performing, A2 - with Outstanding features

2015/16 Overall KHDA / ADEC Rating

Good School, High Performing, A3 - with Very Good and Outstanding features

Rating FS


Rating Primary / Elementary

Very Good

Rating Secondary / Middle

Very Good

Rating Post 16 / High

Very Good

Type of school

Private partnership/Abu Dhabi government, for-profit
(1) Chairman: HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of Aldar Properties PSJC

WSA Good School


Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

FS1: 65,000
FS2: 65,000
YEAR 1: 65,000
YEAR 2: 75,000
YEAR 3: 75,000
YEAR 4: 75,000
YEAR 5: 80,000
YEAR 6: 80,000
YEAR 7: 80,000
YEAR 8: 80,000
YEAR 9: 80,000
YEAR 10: 96,333
YEAR 11: 96,333
YEAR 12: 96,333
YEAR 13: 96,333


National Curriculum for England
A' Level
Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)

External Exam Boards

Cambridge International Examinations (CIE)

Number of A Levels offered

18 (more subjects will be offered in time)

A Levels offered

Fine Art
Business studies
Computer Science
Design and Technology (DT)
Drama and Theatre
English Literature
Government and Politics

A Level A* to A

First results will be available at the end of the 2018-19 academic year

A Level A* to C

First results will be available at the end of the 2018-19 academic year


75% A*B (2018)
(1) 2015-2016: 10 Year 10 students sat early GCSE’s with 5 students securing A* in Mathematics, 4 students securing A* in French and 1 student securing A* in Spanish


50%+ A*A (2018)

Number of I/GCSEs Offered


I/GCSEs offered

English Language (Core)
English Literature (Core)
Mathematics (Core)
Biology (Core)
Chemistry (Core)
Physics (Core)
One Modern Foreign Language (MFL) from Arabic, French and Spanish (Core) (Optional according to individual circumstances of SEN and EAL)
Arabic (first or second language) (Option /3)
Art (Option /3)
Computer Science (Option /3)
Business Studies (Option /3)
Dance (Option /3)
Drama (Option /3)
Design and Technology (DT) (Option /3)
French (Option /3)
Geography (Option /3)
History (Option /3)
Latin (Option /3)
Music (Option /3)
Physical Education (PE)
Spanish (Option /3)
Other languages (Fourth, Fifth & Sixth option(s), not timetabled for linguists) (Option /3)
Science (Double Award) (In place of 3 separate sciences according to ability)
Further Mathematics (Additional option for G&T mathematicians)
(1) School offers Higher Tier or Foundation Tier examination alternatives according to individual needs of each student


Partially Inclusive
(1) Intake includes children with both Special Educational Needs (SEN) and English as an Additional Language (EAL)
(2) School has dedicated Gifted and Talented (G&T) programmes
(3) Admission to the school from Years 3 is determined by a child-focused screening process according the requirements of the relevant phase
(4) "We are not being highly academically selective – but we are being selective enough to ensure that every child that joins us can access the curriculum." Brendan Law. Headmaster.

Waiting list

Yes (Pre-prep)

Value Added

Not published

Number of Students

Capacity: 1500
Role: 1300

Teacher to Student Ratio


Largest nationality teachers


Teacher turnover

10% (Very low)

Year opened



Saadiyat Cultural District, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi

Student composition

British: 30%
Emirati: 18%
American: 13%
Australian: 6%
European: 13%
Other Middle East: 5%
Asia: 6%
Special Educational Needs (SEN): "Cranleigh is a mild inclusion school with a small, effective SEN team."
Nationalities: 65+
FS1: 110 children (Fixed maximum)
FS2: 110 children (Fixed maximum)


Mixed, co-educational

School canteen



Aldar Properties
His Excellency Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak (Chairman)
Royal Group
H.H. Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan (Chairman)

Admissions Telephone

+971 (0) 2 497 0000

Web Address
Attainment Nur SEM


Attainment Pri SEM


Attainment Sec SEM


Attainment Post-16 SEM

Phased launch 2017-19

Progress Nur SEM


Progress Pri SEM


Progress Sec SEM


Progress Post-16 SEM

Phased launch 2017-19

Arabic Native Primary Results (Native)


Arabic Secondary Results (Native)


Arabic Post-16 Results (Native)

Phased launch 2017-19

Arabic Primary Results (Add.)


Arabic Secondary Results (Add.)


Arabic Post-16 Results (Add.)

Phased launch 2017-19

Islamic St. Primary Results


Islamic St. Secondary Results


Islamic St. Post-16 Results

Phased launch 2017-19







Quality of teaching


Student personal responsibility


Quality of curriculum


School Governance


SEN Provision



• Potential to re-define “Outstanding” schooling
• Impressive commitment to build a school founded on developing to the maximum each child’s potential through a focus on individual added value flightpaths
• ADEC Good School status with Outstanding Features on its launch inspection
• Outstanding enrichment and whole child development
• Balanced emphasis on pastoral care, academics and enrichment to nurture a very different, kinder approach than that of selective, hot-house models intent on examinations at all and any cost. We think this will deliver.
• Location, location, location – the school campus and extraordinary Saadiyat culture blend magically in a way no other school can match
• Outstanding governance blending school parent and parent owners deeply committed to delivering a beacon school for the Emirates and an educational light on the global stage
• Comprehensive scholarship programme across academic disciplines, sport and the broader Visual and Performing Arts
• Provision for the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) at Sixth Form
• Impressive career programme at Sixth Form offering genuine, high quality industry placements and mentoring - in part leveraging Cranleigh UK alumni


• Limited subject choice at Sixth Form on launch. We are not convinced by the Russel Group "preferred subjects" justification and believe that in the medium term the school needs (with some urgency) to broaden its offer.
• Complete lack of BTEC options with no technical stream offer at Sixth Form

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The capacity to re-define educational benchmarks – but there are hurdles to be crossed and pieces of the jigsaw yet to find their home.

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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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