Brighton College Abu Dhabi exclusive updated review for parents March 2022
Brighton College Abu Dhabi background and location
Opened in September 2011, Brighton College Abu Dhabi (BCAD) has rapidly established itself in the premier league of the capital’s schools. Multi award-winning provision – including our ownSchoolsCompared.com Top Schools Award 2021-22 for Best School in the UAE for The Performing Arts, and the Top Schools Award 2019-20 for Best School in the UAE for Art, Brighton College Abu Dhabi offers a traditional all-through, resolutely British education to around 1800 children between the ages of 3 years and 18 years in FS1 to Year 13 on a beautifully architected 8- acre campus near Khalifa Park. The school is closely linked with its UK founding school from which the three core values of kindness, curiosity and confidence are championed strongly. The UK school is rated Outstanding by the Independent Schools Inspectorate and both the “highest ranked co-educational school in the UK” and its “School of the Decade” by the Sunday Times [Paywalled].
The school is set in the heart of Bloom Gardens:
In its first decade since launching in 2011, the school has educated more than four and a half thousand children.
Brighton College Abu Dhabi delivers the English National Curriculum to around 1800 students. Primary School enrolment stands at around 450 students. Examinations focus on GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) and IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) examinations in Year 11 and GCE A’ Levels in Year 12 and 13. This tells you only so much – the key here is that in ethos, atmosphere, culture and leadership the school’s approach is archetypally that of Tier 1 British public schooling – you could transplant the school into the “green fields of England” and it would not be out of place. Culture is progressive; you won’t quite experience some of the better known radicalism of its founding British school, but do expect considered, inspirational and impassioned debate from any one of the students at the school on any subject – something we noted as a key stand-out strength of the school on our last visit. We noted this particularly in the young women we spoke with at the school who demonstrated a keen sense of social justice in a debate we engineered informally between boys and girls during our visit. The school actively promotes a recognition of the spiritual and ethical parts of our lives – something you rarely hear gaining even the most cursory mention in so many other schools. Absolutely centre stage is the school’s unbreakable commitment to “stressing at all times the importance of kindness – we encourage pupils actively to seek opportunities to demonstrate their commitment to this vital quality.”
Two stand-out new programmes in Year 9 and 12, introduced in 2021-22, capture the exceptional thoughtfulness of this holistic approach to learning, and the whole child, in their broadest sense, at the school. These take the shape of two Diplomas.
The first, taken from Year 9, explores every aspect of a whole child curriculum. From Sport to Current Affairs – and from taking up leadership roles to Community Service, the Diploma delivers the sort of rounded, outward looking education that sets the school apart:Bright College Abu Dhabi Diploma Guide
The advanced Brighton College Abu Dhabi Diploma integrates the Extended Project Qualification [EPQ] with a whole child focus culminating in a focus on Social Justice.
In 2018 -19, Brighton College Abu Dhabi secured an Outstanding rating from the Abu Dhabi Inspectorate of Schools, [ADEK] with some of the most positive and complimentary references we have seen to date from any school inspection in the UAE. The Outstanding inspection grading counts as current (March 2022).
Historically, Brighton College Abu Dhabi achieved A2 Very Good rankings by ADEC in 2015 and 2017. Only one school in the emirate had, at that time, been rated A1 Outstanding (Al Muna) – so this was a very considerable achievement given the youth of the school. It is also worth noting that its A2 rating at that time came with the qualification that the school secured a considerable number of Outstanding features, the highest standard awarded by the Abu Dhabi Inspectorate of schools.
In 2018-19, as above, Brighton College Abu Dhabi achieved a near cross-the-board Outstanding rating with lesser scoring only in Arabic subjects where, even here, the scoring is the highest we have seen for an international school in the UAE.
Helen Wilkinson, Headmistress, Brighton College Abu Dhabi took up her role in August 2021, joining Brighton from her role as Head of Secondary School and Academics at the Swiss Le Régent International School in Crans Montana – an independent international day and boarding school affiliated with the Institut Le Rosey. An honours graduate in English and Philosophy, Mrs Wilkinson draws on more than 25 years expertise in the teaching of English Literature, English Language and Drama. She has been an examiner for the International Baccalaureate Diploma in both English Language and Literature (A) and taught the full breadth of the British curriculum from IGCSE to Gold standard A Levels in both the UK and internationally. Mrs Wilkinson holds her Master in Education with a specialism in Leadership and Management.
Mrs Wilkinson positions the school very much in synergy and close partnership with the values and ethos of her school’s UK parent:
“We believe strongly that all pupils can fulfil their potential when their efforts are valued, shared and celebrated.
One of our key aims is to foster intellectual curiosity, promote confident debate and involve pupils in a wide variety of co-curricular activities so that they become rounded human beings who can make a real contribution to society once they leave.
We strongly endorse the best traditions of British independent school education and links with Brighton College UK and the other schools in the Brighton family are strong.
Our community is underpinned by a profound belief in our values – a love of learning for its own sake; an awareness of, and appreciation of, the spiritual dimension in our lives; an enthusiasm for the world beyond the classroom, in particular in sport, music and the performing arts; respect for difference in others – and a recognition that the efforts and achievements of every individual in our community should be valued equally.
Curiosity, confidence and kindness are at the heart of everything we do.
Kindness enables all of us to flourish – and from this our confidence can blossom.”
Helen Wilkinson, Headmistress, Brighton College Abu Dhabi
- 116 large classrooms and a range of specialist teaching and learning spaces.
- A range of (outstanding) sporting facilities, including a 25-metre shaded swimming pool and ‘toddlers’ pool; modern fitness suite; a long jump pit and a full size 4G astro-pitch.
- Spacious purpose-built playgrounds and outdoor learning environments.
- A mix of Dining Rooms are designed around the ages of children. The main Dining Room seats 280 children and serves a range of hot and cold food. The ‘bistro’ dining room serves food to the youngest children. Older pupils also have two dedicated cafés serving salads, sandwiches and drinks.
- Expressive and Creative Arts wing housing a 600-seat theatre; (large) dance studio; drama studio and teaching spaces; four Music classrooms; 12 music instrumental practice rooms; a recording studio; two landmark Visual Arts studios; photography dark room; and, a cutting-edge design and technology centre.
The school consistently secures at least top three in the UAE as a whole.
In 2013-14 87% of students achieved 5 or more A* to C grades. In 2016, 64% of students achieved grades A-A, and 97% of students achieved grades A-C. In 2017, students achieved 63% A* to A. In 2018, 29% of entries achieved Grade 9 (A**), 47% of entries were graded A* (9–8) 71% of entries were graded A* – A (9–7), 90% of entries were graded A* – B (9-5), whilst 96% % of entries were graded A* – C (9–4). The overall pass rate was 99%. In 2019, 47% of entries were graded A/9-8; 72% A-A/9-7; 89% A-B/9-6 – and 99% A-C/9-4. In 2020, 30% of exam entries achieved Grade 9; 52% Grade 9 – 8 (A); 77% Grade 9 – 7 (A-A); 93% Grade 9-6 (A* – B); and, 100% Grade 9 – 4 (A-C). in 2021, 33% of students secured a Grade 9; 56% Grade 9 – 8 (A); 77% Grades 9 – 7 (A-A); 92% Grades 9-6 (A – B); and, 99% Grade 9-5 (A*- (High) C).
A Level results are as stellar.
GCE A’ Level provision started in 2014. In 2016 95% of students achieved an A* to C grade while 72% scored between A* and B. In 2017, 43 percent of students achieved A* to A grades and 70.5 percent of students A* to B grades. In 2018, 14% of entries were graded A*; 42% of entries A* – A; and, 95% of entries graded A* – C. In 2019, 11% of students secured A*; 40% A-A; 68% A-B; 86% A-C; and, 100% A-E. In 2021, 28.8% of results were at A*; 63.3% at AA; and 95.8% at A-C. In 2020, 45.4% of all grades achieved being A–A, 70.7% of grades were graded A–B, and 89.3% of the grades were at A* – C. In 2021, In 2020, 30% of exam entries achieved Grade 9; 52% Grade 9 – 8 (A); 77% Grade 9 – 7 (A-A); 93% Grade 9-6 (A* – B); and, 100% Grade 9 – 4 (A-C). in 2021, 33% of students secured a Grade 9; 56% Grade 9 – 8 (A); 77% Grades 9 – 7 (A-A); 92% Grades 9-6 (A – B); and, 99% Grade 9-5 (A*- (High) C).
More than 80% of Brighton College Abu Dhabi students graduate to Russell Group Universities, including Oxbridge, with remaining students taking up places internationally in institutions as diverse as Utrecht, Purdue, Colorado Boulder and the Florida Institute of Technology.
Brighton College Abu Dhabi Fees 2021-22
Fees are far from the most expensive in the UAE – for that you need to look for the most part to schools in Dubai. Relatively, on that basis, the ROI is exceptional. But even taken in the context of Abu Dhabi fees, in comparison say with Cranleigh Abu Dhabi (which has fees ranging from AED 65,00 to AED 96,333) , the value offer here is extremely high.
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We do certainly, however, believe that the well rehearsed arguments for schools providing scholarships should justify their reinstatement – after all too, this is something integral to the focus of its British parent. There are children for whom a Brighton College Abu Dhabi education would be transformational and deserved, and whose presence would itself be positively transformational for the students at the school, but for whom, currently, the fees are just out of reach.
Governance of the school is stand-out. Parents should take from this the very close linkages and underpinnings between the UK school and its Abu Dhabi counterpart and the extraordinary breadth of talent drawn on by the school. It is also worth noting the outward looking Advisory Board.
Brighton College Abu Dhabi bottom line? The SchoolsCompared.com verdict 2022
Across every aspect of the school, Brighton College shines. It is, however, selective and certainly a school established for the more academic child. Schools like Brighton are needed – and for the right child the education here is pretty much unsurpassed. Worth noting that on 12th February 2019 it was confirmed that Amy Willetts, who graduated from Brighton College Abu Dhabi in June 2018, achieved the highest A Level grade in the world for Geography.
But, for us, this is resolutely not a story about examination results.
It is, alternatively, in areas like Performing Arts provision, including in Dance, Drama and Music, that the formidable strengths of the school shine – and very much showcase the breadth and depth of subject and whole child offer at both IGCSE and A level. Telling of an academic school is the investment in the broadest range of subjects and the beyond outstanding achievement of children in so many areas, of which another standout on our visit was in the Visual Arts, shines a powerful light on the bigger picture, whole child achievement that fires the holistic engine of Brighton College Abu Dhabi. This is resolutely not a hothouse examination factory, whatever its extraordinary results may suggest.
It is, also, in the most humbling lack of arrogance we found here that the real strengths of the school can be found. Confidence, yes. In spades. But in the children we spoke with, and the teachers and school leadership we spoke with, this is matched with a compassion and a sense of social justice, purposefulness, curiosity and recognition of privilege that was genuine and creditable.
This is then definitively not the school many might expect. Instead, what we have is a rather beautifully, and perhaps remarkably, understated British school that delivers for all its children in countless ways beyond pieces of paper. And yes, we would like to see BTEC in a subject like Engineering to complete the picture, but if there was ever a powerful case for its not being necessary, it is arguably here. This is a school for academic children with their own very particular needs – for those children that might very well get lost, or struggle, in even the most outstanding of inclusive schools.
Our visit to the school was never less than inspirational. Some of the initiatives at the school across philanthropy were stand-out for us, linking academic subject disciplines with a genuine care and outward looking focus on the less fortunate. The school, tellingly, was open to discussions with us as to how these could be improved further – giving us another telling insight into a school that is not inward looking or at all arrogant. Far from it.
We also engaged in a lively debate with a number of older students on the role of women in society and business and were pleased to see female students fighting their corner powerfully and empowered. Investment in extremely accomplished female teaching faculty reflects the values at the heart of school life and the importance Brighton places on role models for both boys and girls.
School leadership is outstanding. Caring, impassioned, utterly transparent, fascinated and engaged in all that is happening in the school and an ambassador for children.
Facilities were outstanding – although parking is, honestly, quite the headache.
We also noted the welcome we received by all faculty and students – this is a very happy, engaged and inquisitive school. Even visitors are greeted as something to be investigated and even…. cherished. Children were wonderfully gracious, enthused, well-mannered, vocally positive about the school and teaching faculty – and an absolute inspiration to speak with.
A school like Brighton College deserves to be celebrated – not for its results only, if at all. As outstanding as they are, it is the way that it wraps these up in an education rich in the bigger picture so important for children to later make their mark in the world. Children that think beyond themselves… perhaps captures it best. The truth is, that hothouse schools do exist that deliver formidable exam results using brutality and game-playing, hurting children in the process. Brighton College Abu Dhabi is definitively not one of these.
We left the school, from one of our most inspiring visits of any UAE school in the last at least five years, certain that this is a school we would send our own children to – this probably the highest compliment we can give.
One of the most telling ways of understanding a school, as it really is, can be found by looking at the way the school projects itself beyond its walls – and celebrates its children. Brighton College Abu Dhabi has, definitively, the most comprehensive communications of the achievements, and celebration of life in the school, we have ever seen, in any school in the UAE. Quite outstanding. As just one example, you can read Brighton College Abu Dhabi newsletters here.
Quite our favourite description the school uses in describing its ethos is the following:
“There are no stereotypes at Brighton College.”
This is an extraordinarily powerful statement, which makes explicit a recognition of the individuality of every child – and that difference is to be celebrated, never squashed.
There is an extraordinary sense of peace, adventure, freedom, integrity, possibility – and home – at Brighton College that is quite unique and utterly beautiful. When you visit, you do not want to leave.
Long overdue, a big thank you to children, faculty and the leadership of Brighton College Abu Dhabi for such a very special visit and welcome from all at SchoolsCompared.com.
Brighton College Abu Dhabi, particularly for the academic inquisitive child, comes beyond highly recommended.
Rich, extraordinary, exceptional, humbling – and important.
© SchoolsCompared.com. 2022. All rights reserved.
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Very Good with Outstanding features
Very Good with Outstanding features
Year 1: 60,240
Year 2: 60,240
Year 3: 60,240
Year 4: 60,240
Year 5: 60,240
Year 6: 65,960
Year 7: 65,960
Year 8: 65,960
Year 9: 65,960
Year 10: 65,960
Year 11: 77,720
Year 12: 77,720
Year 13: 77,720
National Curriculum of England
Drama and Theatre Studies
Government & Politics
Design & Technology
Design & Technology
Yes in Primary, FS1, FS2, Years 2,3 and 5 (2019)
Maximum class size throughout the school is capped at 25 students
(1) Around 104 FTE teaching staff from the UK
(2) Around 17 FTE teaching staff from other European countries
(3) Around 2 FTE teaching staff from North America
(4) Around 2 FTE teaching staff from Australia
(5) Around 27 FTE teaching staff of other nationalities
Bloom Gardens, Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi
Total nationalities: 73
27% United Kingdom (UK) (around 495 children)
18% Emirati (around 306 students)
6% Indian (around 111 students)
6% Australian (around 111 students)
17% other nationalities
7% Special Educational Needs (SEN)
+971 (0)2 815 6504.
• High quality, inspiring, caring, highly strategic leadership and direction that “very effectively” drives the improvement agenda and direction of the school
• Hugely committed, effective and dedicated teachers driving students’ personal and academic development
• Impressive programmes for supporting the academic progress of both students with Special Educational Needs [SEN] and those children who speak English as an additional language
• Very high quality facilities supported by a genuinely inspirational, exciting, caring and happy school environment
• By Year 11, attainment is outstanding in most subjects and well above GCSE curriculum benchmarks
• Personal development in all sections of the school is “outstanding” plus
• Outstanding investment in the whole child.
• Extraordinary, hugely inspirational Art department. Student work reflects school investment in, and commitment to, intellectual freedom, innovation, whole child development and individual self-confidence that come high in the list of priorities of the school.
• An outstanding range of well‐planned extra‐curricular activities enriches the curriculum with more than 150 clubs and activities for students to choose from.
• Performing Arts Department - world class.
• Despite the academic achievement, all children are celebrated and made to feel special. This is a quite exceptional achievement in an academically selective school. Children are happy here - and celebrated for their individual strengths and differences.
• Brighton is (albeit justifiably) expensive and many parents will simply not be able to afford the fees. This notwithstanding, ROI is VERY high.
• We would like Brighton College Abu Dhabi to reconsider its position and reinstate scholarships. The arguments for scholarships are well rehearsed. The school loses something by these no longer being in place.
• We would like to see Brighton reinstate its focus on providing 11+ and Common Entrance at Prep for children aged between 7 and 13,. This was a unique element of provision and one requested by a number of parents we speak to each year who of necessity face relocating back to the UK. Historically this benefitted around 15 children at Brighton College Abu Dhabi each year.