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GEMS Wellington Academy, Al Khail
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Review

GEMS Wellington Academy, Al Khail

by February 22, 2016
Strengths

• Mid way through phased launch ensuring real sense of school identity and warmth for a new school
• Flagship, innovative GEMS inclusive school with best-in-class support programmes for students across the ability spectrum
• GEMS school village feel with neighboring GEMS schools offering future potential for intra school competition
• Fabulous house system generating competition and shared sense of purpose
• Outstanding Executive CEO and Primary Head leadership
• Tier 1 facilities – outstanding breadth and quality of provision
• Outstanding facilities yes – but they play second fiddle to the development and support of students
• Committed, passionate teaching staff drawn, drawn from the spectrum of ages, experience and specialisms creating hugely dynamic learning environment

Weaknesses

• Off pitch, uninspiring location - a pioneering hub for future development of Al Khail?
• Phased launch creates roominess (though offset by displays of student’s work) - see the WSA review
• Class sizes at odds with sector best – despite GEMS heritage in producing results at high teacher:student ratio levels
• Choice of post-16 curriculum not yet defined

Rating
Our Rating
User Rating
Rate Here
Academic
A-
A+
Value
A-
A
ExtraCurricula
A-
A+
Languages
B-
B+
Sports
A-
A+
Arts & Drama
A-
B+
Teaching
B+
A
Communications
D
C+
Warmth
A
B+
Differentiation
A-
B
SEND Provision
A-
A-
Scl Community
B
B+
Scl Facilities
A-
A
Opportunities

• Inclusive, innovative Tier 1 school that will not rush the journey of its students to meeting their potential, with all the potential as it reaches capacity to be a flagship British school in the Emirate

A-
Our Rating
A-
User Rating
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Is this school on your shortlist?
Top of shortlist
33%
In my Top 5
17%
Shortlisted
17%
A possibility
17%
Pass
0%
No way
17%

Updated December 2016

Worth seeking out the “end of year” videos for on You Tube, GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail [WEK] is a (relatively) new school (2013), set to launch full provision to Sixth form through 2017-18. Al Khail itself is pretty much a GEMS-only school zone currently, and Wellington is bordered by GEMS New Millennium, GEMS International – and pretty much little else. This said, it’s reasonably accessible to prospective parents based in the New Dubai areas (Meadows, Greens etc.) or on the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road (Arabian Ranches, Dubai Sports City).

GEMS leverages the premium-plus Wellington brand for Tier 1 British English National Curriculum schools moving through seamlessly from EYFS through to (I)GCSE Level. Whilst the Wellington brand has been elsewhere associated with International Baccalaureate Diploma provision post-16, it may be that WEK will eventually favour parallel stream IB / GCE A Level provision, increasingly standard in ultra-premium schools (outside the UAE) for its ability to better match curriculum provision to the needs of individual children. As it stands the final decision has yet to be made, despite references to GCE A’ Level provision in WEK’s current publicity.

The school which launched with FS to Year 6 provision is currently accepting registration to Year 10.

School design follows the traditional Wellington architectural and facility brief; it’s typically outstanding in breadth and quality of provision – see below for details. However, the real story of any school is found on what happens on the inside – and the school takes no prisoners in (proudly) adorning the walls with examples of children’s work and creativity. Colour abounds. This partly offsets the inevitably roomy feel of a new school with phased grade openings – but also gives a sense that this is a school less about buildings than the children, which is as it should be. It also softens the edges of the inevitably somewhat sterile feel of a new school, something not helped by the endless empty sand dunes and Al Quoz industrial zones on its borders.

The complex is cleverly designed around the three main school groups; foundation, primary and secondary. Each is set around the impressive shared facilities and include a 600-seat auditorium; (spectacular) dining area overlooking the extensive sports fields; and landmark sporting complex including 25M 8-lane Senior and 25M 6-lane Junior swimming pools); toddler pool; 3-level gymnasium; and training facilities.

Stand-out architectural features include a fabulous light filled entrance lobby, palm filled courtyards and a building design focused on reducing the solar gain of the midday sun to ensure the buildings remain comfortably temperate throughout.

Other facilities include a broad spectrum of science and technology labs; multi-purpose hall and theatre; recording studio and video suites; a plethora of indoor and outdoor covered and/or shaded play areas; specialist rooms for music, art, Special Educational Needs [SEN] and inclusion rooms; medical centre; languages and design centres; dedicated FS free-flow areas; Primary, Senior and Post-16 libraries; phased study zones; Post-16 Lounge; and an Achievement Center.

Core sporting provision includes roof top tennis courts; competition football and rugby pitches, multi-court sports halls; full size football and rugby pitches; multi-use games areas adaptable for more than 20 individual sports and activities.

Building on the tradition within the English public schools sector for houses, students are awarded their own house and team colour on entering the school from Air (white); Water (blue); Earth (green) and Fire (red) with coloured sun hats to match. As the school reaches capacity the ability off houses to provide structure, fire competitive imaginations and foster a shared sense of school identity and purpose should not be under-estimated.

WEK is unusual and “ambitious” in “placing specific focus on supporting children who are either academically-gifted or those who have additional learning needs” to “ensuring each child achieves a minimum of three steps each year at the relevant UK curriculum level, as opposed to the two steps targeted in the UK.” To achieve this, the school is the first GEMS school to offer specific structured support to students who do not currently meet the relevant academic standard for their age group.

Class sizes are high for a premium school. There is a maximum of 22 children in each FS1 class, 23 in FS2 and 27 for all other year groups. Phase 1 opened in September 2013 providing for 680 Foundation Stage 1-Year 6 founding students.

Parents should have some caution in interpreting the results of first inspection report published for 2016-17. This saw the school achieving a “Good” school rating. Prospective parents should note that the Dubai Inspectorate is inevitably cautious in its first grading, this reflecting the inherent change and bedding-in inherent in any new school through its phased launch. A “Good” rating is probably the highest any school will achieve at this stage in a phased launch programme – and we feel that there is nothing in the report to indicate that Wellington does not have the capacity to evolve as an at least “Very Good” if not “Outstanding” school.  It is worth noting that this is the time we have noted KHDA inspectors describing a school design as “visionary” – quite some compliment given the KHDA’s well known conservatism in awarding praise. Whilst the KHDA described facilities on balance at pitching in at a benchmark of 80%, we think the school deserves an A rating, notwithstanding it is not yet open to full capacity and all-through schooling.

GEMS has invested heavily in the bells and whistles – but more impressively in both this phased opening strategy and innovative new commitment to Special and Additional Needs provision. whichschooladvisor has consistently argued that GEMS should be more transparent in its publication of examinations data to enable parents to accurately benchmark school provision. With WEK, GEMS has a chance to push added-value scoring through current ceilings across the sector and hopefully this will inspire a change of heart from the Group’s current refusal to publish performance data. It is in this area we think that Wellington could really make its mark. Given its strong Arabic role, again, Wellington has the opportunity to push provision in Arabic subjects and language (a traditional weakness of British schools) to new highs for the sector.

Bottom line? A hugely promising, inclusive school with all the potential, warmth, and teaching expertise and commitment to shine. On current performance we believe that this is an outstanding school in the making.

Go to the LAUNCH REVIEW on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
Details to consider
Type of school

Private, for profit

WSA Good School

Under review 2017-18

Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

FS1: 52,000
FS2: 65,000
YEAR 1: 65,000
YEAR 2: 65,000
YEAR 3: 65,000
YEAR 4: 65,000
YEAR 5: 65,000
YEAR 6: 65,000
YEAR 7: 85,000
YEAR 8: 85,000
YEAR 9: 85,000
YEAR 10: 85,000
YEAR 11: On-stream 2016-17
YEAR 12: On-stream 2017-18
YEAR 13: On-stream 2018-19

Curriculum

National Curriculum for England (NCfE)

External Exam Boards

Cambridge
EDEXCEL
AQA

Number of A Levels offered

To be confirmed 2017-18

A Levels offered

To be confirmed 2017-18

Number of I/GCSEs Offered

To be confirmed 2017-18

I/GCSEs offered

To be confirmed 2017-18

Selective

Inclusive - decision based on last 2 school and nursery reports. Possible play assessment in FS1 and FS2 with some focus on English language ability. Possible Years 1-10 brief test with focus on reading, writing and mathematics. KS3 assessment includes current school report, National Curriculum assessment and Cognitive Ability test.

Waiting list

No

Value Added

Not published

Number of Students

1,148 (Year 1 - 9)
(2,200 capacity)

Teacher to Student Ratio

1:13
Notes:
FS1 1:22
FS2 1:23
Years 1-13 1:27

Largest nationality teachers

British

Teacher turnover

30%

Year opened

2013-14

Location

Al Khail, Dubai

Student composition

Arab (largest nationality)
Notes:
(1) Pre-K: 100
(2) Emirati: 27
(3) SEND: 58

Gender

Mixed, co-educational

School canteen

Yes

Owner

GEMS Education

Admissions Telephone

+971 (0)4 339 6233

Web Address
Attainment Nur SEM

60%

Attainment Pri SEM

46.6%

Attainment Sec SEM

46.6%

Attainment Post-16 SEM

Phased Launch

Progress Nur SEM

60%

Progress Pri SEM

60%

Progress Sec SEM

75%

Progress Post-16 SEM

Phased Launch

Arabic Native Primary Results (Native)

40%

Arabic Secondary Results (Native)

50%

Arabic Post-16 Results (Native)

Phased Launch

Arabic Primary Results (Add.)

40%

Arabic Secondary Results (Add.)

40%

Arabic Post-16 Results (Add.)

Phased Launch

Islamic St. Primary Results

40%

Islamic St. Secondary Results

40%

Islamic St. Post-16 Results

Phased Launch

Leadership

60%

Community

60%

Facilities

80%

Quality of teaching

60%

Student personal responsibility

80%

Quality of curriculum

60%

School Governance

60%

SEN Provision

60%

About The Author
Jon Westley

Jon Westley is the Editor of SchoolsCompared.com and WhichSchoolAdvisor.com UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at] schoolscompared.com

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Academic
Value
ExtraCurricula
Languages
Sports
Arts & Drama
Teaching
Communications
Warmth
Differentiation
SEND Provision
Scl Community
Scl Facilities