GEMS Wellington Academy, Al Khail – THE REVIEW
GEMS Wellington Academy – Updated August 2019, exclusive SchoolsCompared.com 2017-18 visit and updates. KHDA 2019
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 13.
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.
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? The SchoolsCompared.com Verdict 2019
There are significant reductions in fees advertised as of 2019 up to Year 9. Throughout IGCSE and A level the fees, however, rise. This, to us seems at odds with a school that does not offer any BTEC stream at all. In the context of alternative school provision at this level, this appears as unnecessary cost-cutting. The complete lack of technical/vocational stream options for children should strike a note of caution with parents – although options are otherwise comprehensive and DT is represented.
This notwithstanding, GEMS Wellington Al Khail remains a hugely promising, inclusive school with potential, warmth, teaching expertise and the commitment to shine. The school should urgently review its lack of BTEC provision, in our view ….. Without this, it is very hard to provide an unqualified recommendation.
Good with Very Good and Outstanding features
Good with Very Good and Outstanding features
Private, for profit
FS1: 43,941 down from 52,000
FS2: 55,346 down from 65,000
YEAR 1: 55,346 down from 65,000
YEAR 2: 55,346 down from 65,000
YEAR 3: 55,346 down from 65,000
YEAR 4: 55,346 down from 65,000
YEAR 5: 55,346 down from 65,000
YEAR 6: 55,346 down from 65,000
YEAR 7: 76,312 down from 85,000
YEAR 8: 76,312 down from 85,000
YEAR 9: 76,312 down from 85,000
YEAR 10: 85,870
YEAR 11: 85,760
YEAR 12: 86,760
YEAR 13: 86,760
National Curriculum for England (NCfE)
To be confirmed.
AS or A Level streams only - NO BTEC
To be confirmed.
AS or A Level streams only - NO BTEC
To be confirmed 2017-18
Physical Education (non-examined)
Islamic Studies (For Muslim students only)
Design Technology - Product Design
Design Technology - Textiles
Economics (2017-18 onwards)
Photography (2017-18 onwards)
Film Studies (2017-18 onwards)
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.
1,148 (Year 1 - 9)
Years 1-13 1:27
Al Khail, Dubai
Arab (largest nationality)
(1) Pre-K: 100
(2) Emirati: 27
(3) SEND: 58
+971 (0)4 339 6233
• 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
• 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
• No BTEC offer at all; students choose from AS or A Level options only