Nearly half of the private schools in the emirate have improved their rankings. Forty two schools were inspected by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) from January to March.
Ten advanced from satisfactory to high performing and eight moved from in need of significant improvement to satisfactory.
But it was two schools – the Al Ain American and the Sunrise English – that really caught the eye.
The progress showed that inspections were achieving their intended purpose of raising the quality of education in the emirate, said Judith Finnemore, an education adviser with Focal Point Management Consultancy who specialises in school improvement.
“When inspections first started, schools were not aware of how and on what they would be graded," said Mrs Finnemore. “Now, three or four inspection cycles down the line, they know what is coming and they are ready. Those who still aren’t have been delivered ‘notices to improve’."
Dr Wilfred Bock, the principal of Al Ain American, helped set up the school nearly 10 years ago but left soon after. It had consistently been among the lowest performing so last year he was asked to return.
And since then the school has never looked back.
Adec can impose a number of penalties – ranging from freezing tuition to restricting enrolment of new students – on schools that fail to demonstrate progress. Poorly performing schools are also subject to more inspections throughout the year.
If they fail to make positive changes, the schools risk losing their operating licence and are forced to close, as happened with the 21st Century Private Academy last year. “This has had a meteoric effect on getting principals and owners moving," said Mrs Finnemore.
Faced with the prospect of losing their school, the income it generates and their standing in the community, school owners and operators have taken steps to correct the faults identified by auditors.
For the first time since Adec began inspecting private schools three have earned the highest rating so far for the 2015-2016 academic year. Raha International School Abu Dhabi, Al Muna Primary and Al Bateen Secondary-Al Mushrif Primary, which share a building and were graded as one school, were each named as outstanding.
Iain Colledge, who will succeed Wayne MacInnis as principal at Raha International when Mr MacInnis retires at the end of this academic year, said: “We’ve proved how good we can be and now my intention at the school is to turn it from outstanding to exceptional."