Background – GEMS Founders School Al Mizhar
GEMS Founders School Al Mizhar is a relatively new British curriculum school which opened in September 2018. Through a sensitive, gradual launch, the school is currently open to Year 11 (March 2021) and will complete its opening to all-through Year 13 provision by 2023. The school offers the complete British, English National Curriculum founded curriculum running from EYFS through IGCSE to gold standard British A’ Levels. The school has been built ground-up to replicate the original GEMS Founders School Dubai model of education, successfully founded in Al Barsha.
The school is located in Al Mizhar 1, the location chosen by GEMS Education because of its easy accessibility for parents seeking a British school within the Mirdif area of Dubai. GEMS responded to calls by parents for a British school in an area known for the multiplicity of its primary schools – and lack of high quality all-through slipstream schools. Many parents historically found themselves having to move out-of-area, to their considerable frustration. Access is excellent from the Khawaneej Road and the school draws its role from Mirdif, Muhaisanah, Al Warqaa, Al Qusais, Al Khawaneej and further afield – this is a very popular school; more on why below.
As above, the school is the second in GEMS’ portfolio of Founders schools – the first, GEMS Founders Dubai, in Al Barsha, was the “most successful school opening in GEMS history in terms of enrolment”, opening FS to Year 8 provision with over 1800 students on ‘Day One’ in September 2016 – and then doubling in size within just one year of opening. Our review of the first school can be found here. The reason for this popularity? The very fine drawn balance between highly affordable fees but with high quality British schooling – the two do not, as a rule, come together at this fee point. At the time of the original launch, in fact, cynics said that GEMS simply would not be able to deliver. History soon silenced those critics – and both schools have flourished – and delivered all that was promised – and more, for their students and families.
Both Founders schools closely mirror their respective fees (March 2021), the small differential justified by the higher costs of the newer school’s later launch. GEMS Education has sought to keep fees affordable, this structure proven to be pretty much the closest fit for a vast a majority of families seeking a very high standard of British education and willing to push their family budgets to the limit to secure it for their children:
|GRADE||GEMS FOUNDERS SCHOOL DUBAI, AL BARSHA||GEMS FOUNDERS SCHOOL AL MIZHAR|
|YEAR 12||33,000||35000 (From September 2021)|
|YEAR 13||33,000||35000 (From September 2022)|
What makes GEMS Founders Schools Different?
GEMS distinguishes its Founders’ schools in six core respects.
- First, fees, as above, which are aimed to offer very high ROI and, yet, are positioned in the value-fees segment. There is a bigger ethical and values-rich story behind this that draws from the importance attached by the Varkey family to bringing an outstanding education, regardless of the curricular, to every family, regardless of their incomes.
- Second, a focus in both school ethos and academic study around “mindfulness”, this broadly a teaching and broader school approach that focuses on experiential learning and the care of children beyond core academics – but which has been proven as the key to making academics work best. The whole child based underpinning here has traditionally been one of the differentials of premium Tier 1 schools – with all the high costs of entry that come with these schools.
- Third, an emphasis on languages to leverage the broad cultural base of the Founders’ schools (generally around 90 nationalities).
- Fourth a concentration on academics over “bells and whistles” to keep fees low but the quality of educational provision high.
- Fifth, investment in high calibre British leadership and school Principals.
- Finally, the schools focus on delivering a British, pure National Curriculum for England focused education: do not expect the IB or a parallel tracked curriculum.
Feedback to ourselves for both Founders schools has been positive.
Whilst GEMS Founders School Al Mizhar is too young to have secured a rating from the Dubai Schools Regulator, the KHDA, it is worth noting that its sister school secured a Good school rating at its first inspection and is today ranked a Good School with Very Good features. This is no small achievement for a school from just its second inspection. There is no reason for parents not to expect at least the same rating from Al Mizhar – the schools are designed to follow the same, very tightly controlled model of delivery for children. GEMS has a lot riding on these schools. Having gone out on a limb to say it could deliver, and would deliver a Very Good British education at this price point, it will not let either school fall short of the mark and the very high standards of British education promised to parents at the outset.
As above, the focus at both Founders schools is focused on education – both academic and whole child. The model is one focused on educating students to a very high standard and creative accomplished young men and women ready for their journey’s ahead on leaving the school. the focus is in no small part on ensuring that Founders children have the same access to top universities as students from much more expensive schools. To do this, there is a trade off in terms of facilities. It is not that facilities are poor – very far from it. All the fundamentals are here to ensure the success of students. However, what is not here are the bells and whistles.
As a result parents can expect:
- classrooms equipped with modern facilities and connected with high-speed internet
- a multi-purpose hall
- a full spectrum of arts and design rooms
- extensive investment in fully-equipped science laboratories and technology rooms
- music rooms
- Both a primary and secondary library – both very well resourced
- a medical centre
- a dining hall serving hot food; and, even a
- book store (selling textbooks, workbooks and stationery)
Parents, however, should not expect a swimming pool or a Planetarium.
This does not mean in the area of Sport, again, that there is no investment. Quite the opposite. The investment is strong, notwithstanding the omission of on-site swimming facilities. They include:
- a full-sized 11-a-side football pitch
- three shaded full sized MUGA (multi use games area) courts
- fully air-conditioned multi purpose hall
- fully air-conditioned primary sports hall
- covered outdoor play areas
- roof top MUGA court
- roof top football pitch
Focusing on facilities , however, misses the point. The bigger investment, at both Founders schools, is not in facilities but teachers. A premium is placed on UK experience and investment in UK and internationally qualified, predominantly native English speaking teachers. If there is a compromise, it is slight. Many teachers are younger and join the school relatively early in their careers. The benefit of this, however, is cutting-edge knowledge from recently trained teachers and, most important of all, a passion for teaching and making a difference for children. NQTs are actually a positive, usually arriving fresh with the latest in teaching methodologies and best practice – and usually too huge amounts of energy and passion for teaching – and getting the very best from students.
Curriculum – IGCSE
|Compulsory Subjects||Option 1||Option 2||Option 3||Option 4||Option 5|
|· Mathematics (core or extended)
· English Language or English as a second language
· English Literature
· Ministry of Education Arabic (only in Year 10 for non-Arab students)
· Islamic (Muslim students only)
· Prep (non-Muslim students only)
· Moral Education (non IGCSE)
· UAE Social Studies (non IGCSE)
· Physical Activity and Wellbeing (non IGCSE)
|Biology||Chemistry||Physics||Arabic as a First
|Psychology||Physical Education||French||History||Computer Science|
|Accounting||Computer Science||Arabic as a Foreign
|Art and Design||Economics||Psychology||Accounting||Sociology|
|Chemistry||Spanish||Art and Design||Physics||Biology|
Curriculum – A’ Levels
|Compulsory Subjects||Option 1||Option 2||Option 3||Option 4|
• Ministry of Education
Arabic as a first
• Islamic Education
(Muslim students only)
• Moral Education
• Physical Activity and
|English Literature||Chemistry||English Language||Physics|
|Computer Science||Geography||Mathematics||Further Mathematics||Business|
|Biology||French||Economics||Art and Design|
Bottom line? The SchoolsCompared.com Verdict 2021.
Our sister site, WhichSchooolAdvisor.com, captures the formula here so well:
“The sum of the maths is this: Mid Price fees + Premium UK Curriculum – Expensive Facilities = an immediate 1800+ students.”
The difference, today, is that unlike parents joining either school at launch, Founders is proven. These are both schools that deliver- and highly, for children.
Yes, there are compromises. You certainly will not find a Planetarium or Swimming Pools here. Nor will you find shiny castle parapets or any other such whimsical design flourishes.
So too, the curriculum breadth cannot match more expensive schools and BTEC, certainly, is something that we feel is a loss. Provision of a even a single, technical stream BTEC subject we feel would be transformational for children – and the school.
This said, the focus is on delivering powerful results in the core subjects offered and not stretching the curriculum subject offer too thin for the sake of it and risking compromise. Subject breadth, notwithstanding the lack of BTEC, is thoughtful and stretches to outlier subjects like psychology (a favourite of Russell Group universities because it bridges the Arts and Sciences) and sociology – subjects not offered by the severely cut-down offers of the majority of alternative schools operating at this price point.
It would be easy to find faults – but we could only easily do so by measuring the school against schools with fees operating at much higher price points. That would, of course, be entirely missing the point. If there is a critique, it is that GEMS Education has given itself an almighty headache because parents at both schools are (understandably) demanding in wanting the very best for the students. GEMS has sought to achieve the impossible – and the parents expect it.
Our view then? Parents seeking an education for their child(ren) in 2021 at this extraordinarily high value ROI price point will not find better if they look beyond bells and whistles and focus on just how clever and substantial the real offer taking place here truly is.
You may not see castle turrets and grand follies – but when GEMS Founders students graduate with meaningful, competitive qualifications that open doors to universities and industry anywhere in the world, the substance here will shine a light on just where the investment here has been so creditably and ambitiously placed.
Yes, the offer here is that good – and remarkable, on its own terms, given the odds stacked against delivering a very good British education at this fee point.
© SchoolsCompared.com. 2021. All rights reserved.
Notes for parents:
- Our Guide to choosing the Right School can be found here.
- Our Guide to IGCSEs can be found here.
- Our Guide to AS Levels can be found here.
- Our Guide to A’ Levels can be found here.
- Our Sixth Form Guide can be found here.
First Inspection expected 2021-22
First Inspection expected 2021-22
First Inspection expected 2021-22
First Inspection expected 2021-22
YEAR 1: 28,000
YEAR 2: 28,000
YEAR 3: 28,000
YEAR 4: 28,000
YEAR 5: 28,000
YEAR 6: 28,000
YEAR 7: 30,000
YEAR 8: 30,000
YEAR 9: 30,000
YEAR 10: 33,000
YEAR 11: 33,000
YEAR 12: 35,000
YEAR 13: 35,000
National Curriculum for England (NCfE)
(3) A' Level
Oxford International AQA Examinations
(1) Phased launch 2022-23
Art & Design
Art & Design
1:13 - 1:30
(1) FS1 - 2: class size capped at 25 children
(2) Years 1+: class size capped at 30 children
50% British / 50% Indian
Al Mizhar 1, Dubai
Indian (largest nationality)
+971 (0 )4 519 5399
• Outstanding ROI
• Value fees
• Credibility and backing - GEMS Education now has a proven history of delivering exceptionally good schools at this price point
• Proven Founders' model
• No swimming pool
• (Very) large school role
• Demand outstrips availability in many years
• Relatively restricted curriculum - we really would like to see provision of BTEC. Sociology and Psychology are, however, strong outlier subjects and highly creditable for curriculum breadth.