British School Al Khubairat

Best Post 16 School in the UAE, 2019/20

In all-through and Secondary schools, it is arguably the shape and quality of post-16 provision that shapes whether a school is, ultimately, successful for its students. Even in stand-alone Primary schools, where there is a defined slipstream school, we will always look to post-16 provision to understand how well the school is eventually going to be able to meet the needs, potential, ambitions and abilities of different children. The almost universal lack of proven post-16 provision in new schools too, one which more often than not also comes with phased opening of later years and a lack of published plans for Sixth Form, that is any new school’s greatest risk for parents. No one wants to plan on moving schools for post-16 study, even if it is, today, becoming a more considered option for parents in the UAE. 

Over the last three years, there have been significant improvement across the sector as a whole in key areas we look at, in evaluating school provision in the final years of education.


When evaluating schools we consider:  


First, breadth of subject choice. Does the school offer a technical stream option for non-academic children or those who want to pursue a mix of academic and more vocational, practical qualifications? One example of the latter might be the accomplished athlete seeking a sports scholarship to a top, tier university, but also wanting a recognised pre-university qualification to fall back on. Both, study for the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme grounded in BTEC Sport, or a mix of BTEC Sport with relevant A Levels, would meet his or her needs exactly.   


Second, breadth of subject choice both within technical (if it exists at all) and academic stream options. Self-evidently, the broader the range of options, the better the school will be able to meet the needs of the greatest diversity of child abilities, interests and graduation (industry or university) ambitions. In the Indian school sector, for example, we look for schools that go beyond commerce and science streams to offer broader Arts choices. In British A-Level schools, we look to the provision of outlier subjects including Government and Politics and Psychology to indicate higher levels of subject provision. Telling in schools is higher level provision in subjects like Music, Art and Drama – in schools driven by cost reduction and league tables you will often find these subjects missing altogether.  Within IB schools, the same applies – just what breadth of subject offer does a school have within its Diploma, or Career Programme, options for students.


Thirdly, we look to results – but results for all children, not just, for example a limited number of high achievers. Many schools, for example, will brand the International Baccalaureate Diploma as the face of their Sixth Form offer, but mislead parents in doing so because the vast majority of students, if they sit any at all, will only sit a small number of IB courses. These students inevitably do not even appear in academic league tables used by the school to advertise its performance with parents. The same holds true in all schools. Some schools too, will leave out of their statistics the child, or children, that fall through the cracks because they do not secure qualifications at all. In different ways – bottom line, many schools do not provide a reference for the total real number of children who graduate successfully (in their own terms) at Sixth Form or tracking of the performance of all children to graduation. We also look at results in the context of child progress. We do not expect the same level of performance from academically inclusive schools as we do from their selective counterparts. It would not be comparing like with like. 


Fourth, we look to the physical and cultural shape of Sixth Form provision within a school. This is a critical time for students, in the best schools, to take on greater responsibilities and develop as young adults academically and holistically. In the best schools there is clear demarcation of post-16 provision that better aligns that blends with the sorts of responsibility and environment that young men and women can expect in both university and industry slipstreams. 


Fifth we look to level of resource. One indicator is subject breadth above, but we also look to methods of teaching, class sizes and lesson materials provision. In DT subjects this involves looking at the depth of Labs provision, for example. Only one school in the UAE, BSAK, for example, can meet the requirements for BTEC Engineering (BSAK). Other schools like JESS, stand out for the way it integrates cross-curricular technology like VR across Sciences and the Arts. Culturally, DESC stands out in a different way, providing probably the best working and debating environment specifically for Sixth Form students in the UAE. Dubai College, in a very different way, has a resource that comes from its unique combination of selective intake and academic ethos, this providing another type of outstanding environment for learning for some older children that is not easily compared or equalled for the right child.  Each of these examples indicate specific, considered and higher levels of investment in Sixth Form provision.

“It really is a huge honour; we feel incredibly proud. We put serious effort into delivering an holistic Post 16 education...” James McBlane, Deputy Head, BSAK

We look to graduating universities and industry. Do all children secure a slipstream – and what is the quality of the slipstream if they do. Is there a guarantee that no child will be left behind?  


In an all-through schools we also interrogate whether Sixth Form entry is a ‘stacked deck’ driven by the needs of academic league tables rather than child need – wshat happens to the Secondary child that does not meet the grade requirements for Sixth Form entry?


Finally, we look to how well a school meets our policy framework identified in the introduction, including, for example, provision of scholarships and bursaries. 


All the schools shortlisted here, for the right child, promise an outstanding, world class education, although in one case that is dependent on its meeting its promise and ambition in future years. 


It should be finally noted that Brighton College Abu Dhabi is notable for its absence. We anticipate with some certainty its being shortlisted in 2020, following significant, outstanding improvements at the school.  


So the competition is fierce so the winner of the 2019 for Best Post Education in the UAE, The British School of Al Khubairat, deserves very significant credit. The Post-16, Sixth Form education on offer here is beyond outstanding. 


We quote our earlier summary of the British School of Al Khubairat:


“The British School of Al Khubairat is a school that absolutely excels in delivering a world class, inclusive, happy education for its students. 


Stand out for us is the happiness of children – and from this the atmosphere at the school is collegiate, collaborative, intellectually curious, individually child-affirming  and ….exciting.  Sixth form provision is stand-out – it is the best for BTEC in the UAE (and the only school to offer BTEC Engineering in the UAE). School results are some of the best in the UAE. Read through the lens of the school’s deep commitment to inclusion they are rarely bettered.  Leadership is outstanding plus. The success of young women in technical subjects and the Sciences is best in the UAE.  Science has always been a strength of the school – but it is the uptake by young women of the subject that further sets The British School of Al Khubairat for us. Our conversations with young female aspiring scientists, mathematicians and engineers at the school have been inspiring and deeply impressive. 


Some of the work completed by children in Art arguably deserves a place in a gallery such is the quality. This so telling in a school which is well known for its league table results. 


The British School of Al Khubairat is one of those schools in which children look up and engage with you. It has clearly manged to instil in children the confidence of their own voices – the type of thing public schools in Britain do so well – but at BSAK this comes with no airs and graces.


Post-16 provision at BSAK exceeds every one of our benchmarks. First, it meets our ambition for schools to have a technical stream option, here met with BTEC. 


As above, BSAK not only meets this, but the investment and depth of provision is top-tier. As above, this is the only school to offer a BTEC in Engineering in the UAE (the most expensive  BTEC stream for a school to offer) and further options are provided in Sports Science and Business Studies. Its A’ Level reach is also best in class with 23 subjects on offer, including and extraordinary range of outlier subjects like Drama, Fashion, Economics, Music, Psychology and Fine Art to support the core basics in Science and English that come with the territory. 


In many ways, The British School of Al Khubairat is a school that comes the closest in the UAE to being a hybrid, hugely academic Sixth Form and cutting-edge Technical College. Add into this mix some of the most accomplished teaching faculty in the UAE and outstanding, inclusive sporting and arts provision, and the offer here is beyond impressive. 


Results are outstanding given that this is an academically inclusive school. Around 70% of children at BSAK Sixth Form secure A*B at A Level or equivalent. Note, this is absolutely not a hot house school. Young men and women here thrive because of an inspired love of learning – and because they have been given the breadth of subject choice to study the subjects that fit their passions. No one here is driven to study to meet league table targets to look good – the school cares about its children, not statistics. With a 115-odd strong A Level cohort, the school is also the largest Sixth Form in Abu Dhabi. 


Also worth noting, BSAK excels in cultural and SEND inclusion. The commitment to inclusion here, including academic inclusion, sets a very high bar. In this regard it is our benchmark school, demonstrating that with the right level of investment, truly outstanding school leadership and calibre of faculty, breadth of subject choice, community engagement and care of children, schools can deliver the holy grail of extraordinary results for children, leaving no child behind and the broadest possible welcome for every child. 


Finally, we, and according to all our surveys parents, think happiness matters – and students are happy at BSAK. The compassion of students, faculty and leadership; the collegiate shared ethical value framework the links faculty, parents, community and children – and the sense of purpose and ambition here, is clear and present for any visitor to see.


Overall, and in our opinion, The British School of Al Khubairat makes not only the strongest case for the 2019 Award for Best Post-16 Education in the UAE, but also one showing just how world class our education has become in the UAE. There is simply no longer any need for parents sending their children home to boarding or alternative schooling at home. Crucially, The British School of Al Khubairat delivers at Sixth Form an education not only able to meets the needs, potential and ambitions of every one of its students – but to exceed them.   


The Backstage Interview




Established: 1968

ADEK Rating: Very Good with Outstanding features

ADEK weakness: Arabic subjects (likely to be upgraded with new Head of Arabic now in post)

Subject breadth/meeting the needs of children: Outstanding 

Fees: AED 38K – 66K ((Note: Abu Dhabi fees are 20% lower than equivalent Dubai fees)

Number of students: 1878

Age of role: 3 – 18 years

Curriculum: British – including the best technical stream in the UAE

School type: Not-for-profit (profits re-invested back into the school and its children)

Number of students with SEND: 147/8% (Above 5% in an international school we rate as outstandingly inclusive for SEND

Number of Emirati children: 12% (Above 10% in an international school we rate as outstandingly inclusive to the local population

See the 2019 winners

Best for Progress and Value Add

Best School in the UAE 2019/20

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