One of Abu Dhabi's oldest schools has been crowned the best in the UAE in awards honouring academic excellence across the country.
British School Al Khubairat, established in 1968, took the title in the Top School Awards 2023, announced on Thursday.
The school won five categories, including best principal, which was shared by its head teacher Mark Leppard and Dr Saima Rana, principal of Gems World Academy Dubai.
Mr Leppard said the award success was rich reward for the efforts of all involved with the school.
"Honoured, humbled and proud, I think are the three words that springs to mind," he said.
"We're proud of the team and all of these awards are only possible because of a team approach.
“For me, as a leader, you want people to be recognised and to get the overall best school in the UAE, that is recognition for everyone from our security guards, our housekeeping staff, our maintenance team, and our support staff, our teaching a classroom based assistants, our teachers.
"So, to win best overall school, it's almost all of those groups that I've just mentioned are being recognised one way or another. And it can't be done without any one of them."
Dr Rana told of her pride at earning the title of top principal.
“To be honoured as the best principal in the UAE, I just think it's a great message to everybody that do what you think is right for your community, stick to your beliefs and your ambitions for your community as a principal, because it can be a very lonely job, it can be a very difficult job," she said.
"But you if you really, genuinely believe you can do it, and you really genuinely impact and keep that child at the centre of everything you do, then you will be celebrated. I couldn't be happier for this award."
The annual awards are run by Which Media, publishers of education ranking website, SchoolsCompared.com.
This year, organisers shone a light on schools that ensure finances are no barrier to achievement, with a new award introduced for the top school for bursaries, scholarships and care for parents.
The inaugural winner was Dubai College, one of the few non-profit schools in the city.
“Bursaries are a common feature of Tier 1 private schooling elsewhere in the world, but in the UAE schools tend to avoid publishing details of their bursary provision for parents facing financial hardship,” said Johnathan Westley, managing editor of SchoolsCompared.com.
“Parents … have no published, transparent framework in place for understanding how schools will help them in these circumstances, or how to open dialogue with their school. This leads to significant worry, sometimes shame, and stress, at a time parents facing unpredicted hardship need it least.”
Full Steam ahead for schools
Another theme of the latest awards were the Steam subjects of science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics.
“As the world moves increasingly to focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, we look to schools that bring to life the bigger world around us in the arts – and all those areas that make life beautiful, inspiring and creative,” said Mr Westley.
Gems International School Al Khail won best school for Steam subjects.
A total of 29 awards were given out to the nation's best-performing schools.
Gems World Academy Dubai was recognised as the best school for girls and young women.
It will be smiles all round at Safa Community School, which clinched the happiest school in the UAE award.
Hartland International School was confirmed the best loved by parents.
Fiona Cottam, principal at Hartland International School, said the award was testament to its efforts to forge strong connections with the community.
“We're absolutely thrilled that we've managed to win the same awards two years in a row,“ said Ms Cottam.
"For us it's about community and connectivity. It's about openness, transparency. It's about just developing relationships that are that are genuinely deep and meaningful, and that engage the whole family. So it's constant work and it's not something that we've done overnight."
Launched in 2017, the Top Schools Awards are an independent non-profit initiative.
Schools do not face a payment barrier to entry, and schools and individuals may nominate themselves, or be nominated by parents or other independent parties.
Finalists are chosen from both the entry submissions and the wider education environment by Which Media education specialists, using a combination of industry knowledge, statistical insights and feedback from independent experts.
The final winners are selected by a panel of independent judges and an advisory panel of UAE and international education experts.