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Recruiting good teachers to an international school in the Middle East by Diane Glass

I recently hosted a panel session at the GESS Dubai Conference 2020. One of my panel guests was Jake Madden, Executive Principal at Al Yasat Private School in Abu Dhabi. The school has developed over time, as so many international schools do; beginning in 1991 as an elementary school set up in a villa in Abu Dhabi city. It relocated to Al Shamkha where, in 2014, it became a K-12 licenced school, located in a brand new, purpose-built campus. The school is an American co-ed curriculum school with just under 1,200 students from K-11. It has grown, grade by grade over the past few years and the final year, Grade 12 will be introduced for the 2020/2021 academic year.

During the panel session, Jake explained the school’s demographics and talked about its recruitment strategies: “As the student population has grown, so too have our diverse staff numbers,” he said. “We have 150 staff members, 94 are teachers. Like most schools in the UAE, they come from many countries around the globe. There are currently 28 different nationalities.”

Jake has led international schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi since 2014. During that time, he told the audience, he has seen several distinct changes in the market including new schools opening as well as some schools closing, a growing focus on inspection results, the economic impact on schools resulting in fee reductions, and declining enrolments in expatriate-based schools contrasted notably with international schools that are attracting local students and, as a result, where enrolment numbers are increasing. “Our school has over 90% Emirati students,” Jake explained. “Demand is great, with current waiting lists this year on 6 grades. As we continue to grow, we need more staff.”

He explained how the international school recruitment model is changing: “Outside working with our regular recruitment agencies, there has been a growing number of teachers seeking employment directly with us,” he said. The school’s recent ‘walk in interview’ session attracted 323 teachers. The school relies on word of mouth; teachers talking to teachers about the school’s ethos and staff support, to attract enough quality candidates to fill job vacancies. “Being a family-focused school is important to us and this includes the staff family,” Jake explained. In addition, the school offers strong professional learning programmes to allow teachers a range of opportunities to develop, as well as a teacher action research programme which, Jake said, is particularly attractive to teachers.


If you would like to find out more, get in touch. Alternatively, take a look at what our Benchmarking Report offers which can compare your school against others for such aspects of school life as enrolment capacity, fee ranges, recruitment, teacher salaries and benefits, staff demographics, and much more.