GEMS Wellington Academy, Al Khail – THE 2020 REVIEW
GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail – Updated March 2020, exclusive SchoolsCompared.com 2020 verdict, visit and updates. KHDA 2019-20 Rating.
Background – GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail
Worth seeking out the “end of year” videos for on You Tube, GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail [WEK] is a relatively new school which, since its opening in 2013, has launched full all-through British curriculum provision to A’ Level. The school is rated Good with Very Good and Outstanding features by the Dubai Inspectorate of Schools. The school is rated Outstanding by British Schools Overseas (2020), the organisation’s highest award.
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 proven very attractive to parents based in the New Dubai areas, including the Meadows and Greens, as well as families based around the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road in areas such as Arabian Ranches and Dubai Sports City. The value proposition, in terms of its balance of (high) quality of provision to fees, has ensured the popularity of GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail with families, this despite its opening years taking place during the most intensively competitive school environment in the UAE education sector history. Our verdict on the school, of which more below, is uniformly positive – and particular in terms of its school leadership, which we rate as outstanding, and child happiness and engagement – again, both of which we rate as outstanding. Our review is based on an extended visit to the school in 2020 during which we conducted lesson observations, took part in a school tour, conducted extended and in-depth discussions with the senior leadership team and carried out follow up exchanges with GEMS Education. All our reviews are based on extensive knowledge of the school through Which Media intelligence (the largest education specialists in the UAE with a global presence) and detailed independent feedback from parents, teachers and students.
Location information and context below:
GEMS leverages its premium-plus “Wellington” brand at the school to signal to parents that what is on offer is a Tier 1 British, English National Curriculum based education from EYFS through to (I)GCSE and A’ Level.
Whilst the Wellington brand has been elsewhere associated with International Baccalaureate Diploma provision post-16, GEMS Wellington International Al Khail stands out in offering the “Gold Standard” A Level as the foundations of its 16-18 provision at Sixth Form. A Level was consistently asked for by founding families and it is a credit to GEMS Education and the school that it responded by building the development of the school around the needs and wishes of its founding families and children..
The school launched with FS to Year 6 provision to manage the opening of the school with great care and attention to its children. Today, after a period of gentle and gradual phased launch GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail is accepting registration to Year 13, subject to the child meeting the needs of the curriculum at the point at which they enter the school. Importantly, the school is highly inclusive and confident in the gifts and expertise of its teachers to ensure that each child succeeds in his or her own terms, ability, ambitions and potential. Flight paths and baselines are established for every child joining the school and progress is continuously monitored. Parents are regularly updated on the progress their children are making (a recognised strength of GEMS schools) and children as a whole meet or exceed those projected flight paths.
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 to be found in 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, the celebration of child achievement, and school pride, abounds. GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail is a school less about buildings than the children, which is as it should be. The seemingly endless empty sand dunes and Al Quoz industrial zones on its borders are soon forgotten when you enter a school that brims with life and a clear passion amongst its children for learning. This is a very happy school.
The complex is cleverly designed around the three main school groups; Foundation, Primary and Secondary. Each is set around the impressive shared facilities which 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.
GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail is unusual and “ambitious” in “placing specific focus on supporting children who are either academically-gifted or those who have additional learning needs” to “ensure that 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 – or who are over-achieving against them. This does not mean that children in the middle are lost, the opposite is in fact true as by leaving no child behind, every child is pulled up and given every justification to believe in themselves and be ambitious for their learning. It is worth noting that the Dubai Inspectorate of Schools have described the school as “visionary” – a rare compliment from a Schools Inspectorate known for its conservatism in language.
A comprehensive list of facilities follow:
- ·Black Box (Drama)
- 3 Music classrooms
- 3 Yoga Studios
- Hydroponics systems
- Organic Garden
- Radio Room
- TV Studio
- Product Design Studio
- 2 Food Technology classrooms
- Robotics Lab
- Dance Studio
- Two indoor Sports Halls
- 2 x 25 metre Swimming Pools
- 1 Foundation Stage Pool
- 2 Football/Rugby Pitches
- 3 Tennis Courts
- 1 Cricket Pitch
- Long Jump
- Running Track
- Basketball Court
- 5 Playgrounds
- 6 Science Labs
- 3 Libraries
- 1 dedicated Arabic Library
- 2 Mac Labs
- 2 Computer Science Labs
- 600-seat Auditorium
BSO Report 2020GEMS Wellington Al Khail BSO Report 2020
Strengths and Stand-out Features
GEMS Wellington Al Khail argues that it stands out in the Tier 1 British schools sector in the following five key areas:
- The “Wellington” Learner Profile – academic standards are centred around the attributes of (1) critical thinking; (2) risk-taking; (3) independent inquiry; (4) teamwork; (5) reflective learning. These are deigned to develop rounded, academically high achieving students but with the broader spectrum of whole child skills and attributes demanded by employers in the digital economy.
- Learning Beyond the Classroom – GEMS Wellington Al Khail operates an extensive Enrichment and ECA programme, including pupil’s access to a specialist Sports Academy. The GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail Swimming Centre of Excellence opened in October 2019 with a launch event including the South African Olympic, World and Commonwealth Games Champion swimmer Chad le Clos, representatives from Swim England and the Centre’s expert partners, Hamilton Aquatics. The Centre provides specialist swimming education and support to learn, train and perform with expert teaching and coaching. The school’s Swimming Centre of Excellence is run in partnership with Hamilton Aquatics and enables elite swimmers and students balance between extended specialist training with core school curriculum requirements and commitments.
- A dedicated GEMS Employability programme connects students to industry-recognised vocational pathways (although these exclude BTEC).
- Personalised Learning Programmes – all students are provided with personalised learning programmes to prepare them individually for future work streams. These programmes include specialist education in AI, technology and partnerships with universities. GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail hosted the GEMS Global Innovation Showcase 2020, the UAE’s largest youth innovation and entrepreneurship exhibition. The Showcase saw over 1,500 youth innovators across 400 teams present their technology-rich solutions to global and corporate challenges.
- Well-being Focus – The school emphasises building confidence and empowering student leaders through Sport and Performing Arts in a supportive environment.
- Bespoke Sixth Form Structure and Provision – A Levels are taught in small groups within a purpose-built Sixth-Form Centre. Sixth Form study is partnered with a bespoke Core Enrichment Programme.
- A focus on smaller class sizes – phases are capped at EYFS to 20 students, between Year 1 & Year 2 to 22 students, and from Year 3 to 24 students.
· 95% of students achieved at least 5 GCSE’s at grade 4 and above (Grades A to C).
· 47% of GCSE results achieved were at Grade 7 to Grade 9 (Grades A*A).
· 26% of all GCSE results were at Grade 8 (A-) or Grade 9 (A+)
· 12% of all GCSE results were at Grade 9 (Beyond A*+)
The first cohort of A Level students will sit their examinations in June 2020 and we will update this review with their results in September 2020.
Principal and CEO of GEMS Wellington Academy, Al Khail, Neil Matthews, took the helm in May 2018. This was preceded by six years experience with GEMS Education including leadership roles at both GEMS Wellington and GEMS First Point. Mr Matthews located to Dubai after two decade’s teaching and leadership experience in the UK. An educationalist by training, Mr Matthews graduated from Winchester and has professional development qualifications and expertise in school leadership. In the UK, Mr Matthews worked directly for the Essex LEA as a Leadership Mentor and Coach.
We found Mr Matthews, during the course of extended meetings with him at the school, extremely compassionate, driven by a powerful conviction of the importance of kindness, and impassioned in his belief in the school’s commitment to inclusion as a force for good. Mr Matthews spoke with conviction about the importance of developing a love of learning for its own sake in pupils and was deeply committed to the vocation of his professional. We noted an exceptional rapport with pupils. Independent feedback we have received from colleagues, parents, teachers and students is exceptional.
GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail Official 2020 School ProspectusGEMS Wellington Adaemy Al Khail 2020 School Prospectus
GEMS Wellington Al Khail has noticeably reduced its fees against KHDA agreed fees. Full reductions follow:
|Grade||Agreed Fees 2020||Actual Fees 2020||Annual Saving|
|FS 1||Agreed: AED 57,635||Actual: AED 43,941||Saving: AED 13,694|
|FS 2||Agreed: AED 72,044||Actual: AED 55,346||Saving: AED 16,698|
|YEAR 1||Agreed: AED 72,044||Actual: AED 55,346||Saving: AED 16,698|
|YEAR 2||Agreed: AED 72,044||Actual: AED 55,346||Saving: AED 16,698|
|YEAR 3||Agreed: AED 72,044||Actual: AED 55,346||Saving: AED 16,698|
|YEAR 4||Agreed: AED 72,044||Actual: AED 55,346||Saving: AED 16,698|
|YEAR 5||Agreed: AED 72,044||Actual: AED 55,346||Saving: AED 16,698|
|YEAR 6||Agreed: AED 72,044||Actual: AED 55,346||Saving: AED 16,698|
|YEAR 7||Agreed: AED 94,211||Actual: AED 76,312||Saving: AED 17,899|
|YEAR 8||Agreed: AED 94,211||Actual: AED 76,312||Saving: AED 17,899|
|YEAR 9||Agreed: AED 94,211||Actual: AED 76,312||Saving: AED 17,899|
|YEAR 10||Agreed: AED 101,515||Actual: AED 85,870||Saving: AED 15,645|
|YEAR 11||Agreed: AED 101,515||Actual: AED 85,870||Saving: AED 15,645|
|YEAR 12||Agreed: AED 101,515||Actual: AED 86,760||Saving: AED 14,755|
|YEAR 13||Agreed: AED 101,515||Actual: AED 86,760||Saving: AED 14,755|
As a Tier 1 premium school, we rate the value proposition here very high. However, the school is let down by not offering a dual stream BTEC programme for students in the Sixth Form. We would like to see this addressed in future years as the school moves towards a capacity role. We would also like to see the school give greater profile to the outstanding GEMS Scholarship Scheme which GEMS Educations runs across its schools. There are many outstanding students who would benefit from an education, but for whom the fee levels will be out of reach. Our arguments for scholarship provision, and the benefits of schools attracting outstanding students across academic subjects, the Performing Arts, Sport and other talents is discussed here. This link will also provide you with further information on the GEMS Scholarships programme ore broadly. GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail offers extended scholarship opportunities for elite swimmers and its offer here is arguably the best of any school in the UAE.
Bottom line? The SchoolsCompared.com Verdict 2019
Whilst the KHDA describes facilities on balance at pitching in at a benchmark of 80%, we think the school deserves an A rating. School transparency too we rate as outstanding – this is one of the few GEMS schools to be completely transparent in publishing the results of external examinations sat at the school.
GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail also sets the benchmark for elite sport in Swimming across schools in the UAE- and GEMS Education deserves serious acclaim for its serious investment in scholarship provision here to support the outstanding strengths of the facility.
Our single critique of this otherwise outstanding school is the lack of technical stream BTEC or T Level provision at Sixth Form. This seems a strange omission for a creditably inclusive school – and one very much at odds with best practice in the Tier 1 British Schools sector. It is also the only major critique of the school highlighted by BSO in its otherwise powerfully supportive view of the school. On a positive note, the breadth of subject provision at both GCSE and A’ Level we rate as outstanding with a significant number of outlier options not offered by other schools working to a budget – these including Psychology (an important bridging subject between the Arts and Sciences), Sociology, Art & Design, Economics and Business.
GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail, notwithstanding this, is, in our view, a hugely promising, fabulously inclusive school with the warmth, teaching expertise, outstanding school leadership and overwhelming happiness of its school role, to deserve its place in the top tier of British schools in the UAE. Its fabulously diverse student role, commitment to individualised education, standout care for children and access to the broader range of GEMS expert programmes (including those in Music, Languages and Sport) create a hugely inspiring proposition for parents.
The happiness of children – and the care of teachers and school leadership, was a stand-out feature of the school on our extended 2020 visit. No school over the last 18 months has outshone it in these areas.
One very telling and hugely creditable example of the school’s investment in each child as an individual is in its providing students with the opportunity to re-take Mathematics and/or English GCSEs in Year 12 and Year 13 if necessary rather than using this, as too many other schools do, as a pretext to prevent children from studying A’ Levels. Many students develop later in these subjects, whilst being otherwise outstanding candidates for advanced academic A’ Level study.
The SchoolsCompared.com 2020 bottom line? Subject to our (significant) qualification over the lack of a BTEC technical stream for those children whose ambitions and skills do not align with A’ Levels, GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail is, in our view, an outstanding, inspirational and genuinely child-centred school that delivers for its children. On offer is a whole child focused, academic education, layered with unique features that clearly sets the school’s offer apart from its peers in the Tier 1 sector. For the right children, this is a school that sparkles.
Very highly recommended.
© SchoolsCompared.com 2020. All rights reserved.
Good with Very Good and Outstanding features
Note: BSO Outstanding (2020)
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)
(3) A' Level
(1) AS or A Level streams only - NO BTEC/T Levels
· Art and Design – EDEXCEL
· Biology – AQA
· Chemistry – AQA
· Computer Science
· Design and Technology – Product Design – AQA
· Design and Technology – Textiles and Fashion Design – AQA
· Drama and Theatre Studies – EDEXCEL
· English Literature and Language – AQA
· English Language – AQA
· English Literature – AQA
· French – AQA
· History – AQA
· Media Studies – AQA
· Music – EDEXCEL
· Physical Education – AQA
· Physics – AQA
· Psychology – AQA
· Spanish – AQA
· International Business Studies – EDEXCEL
· International Economics – EDEXCEL
· International Geography – Cambridge
· International Maths – EDEXCEL
· International Sociology – Cambridge
2019: 95% of students achieved at least 5 GCSEs at Grade 4 ( Grade C) and above
12% A* plus (2019)
· Arabic as a second language GCSE
· Islamic Studies IGCSE
· French GCSE
· Spanish GCSE
· Business Studies IGCSE
· Economics IGCSE
· Enterprise IGCSE
· ASDAN International Silver Award
· Geography IGCSE
· History GCSE
· Art and Design GCSE
· Design and Technology GCSE
· Food Preparation and Nutrition GCSE
· Computer Science GCSE
· Drama GCSE
· Media Studies GCSE
· Photography GCSE
· Music GCSE
· Psychology GCSE
· Physical Educations GCSE
Physical Education (non-examined)
Islamic Studies (For Muslim students only)
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.
Years 1-13 1:27
15% (rated low)
Al Khail, Dubai
(1) International role with 77 nationalities represented. Largest nationalities British, Irish, Arab, European, Asian.
(2) 50% EAL
(3) SEND: 79 pupils (8%) including gifted and talented.
(4) Emirati: 72
+971 (0)4 339 6233
• Powerful and inspirational sense of school identity and warmth, this particularly creditable for a relatively new school
• Flagship, innovative GEMS inclusive school with best-in-class support programmes for students across the ability spectrum
• GEMS school village feel with neighbouring GEMS schools offering future potential for inter-school competition in sort and ECAs
• Fabulous house system generating competition and shared sense of purpose
• Outstanding Executive CEO school leadership and Senior Leadership team - with a highly visible commitment to children that shows itself in reciprocal warmth from children at the school.
• Tier 1 facilities – outstanding breadth and quality of provision
• Outstanding facilities yes – but they play second fiddle to the development and support of students which is more important and equally outstanding
• Committed, passionate teaching staff drawn from the spectrum of ages, experience and specialisms creating a hugely dynamic learning environment
• Genuine and inspiring commitment to scholarships in swimming to support its flagship Centre of Excellence in Swimming. This sets the bar very high across UAE Schools and for swimming athletes the offer here is best in class.
• Originally, uninspiring off pitch location inevitably part of new development areas in Dubai. The Hills development on the school's doorstep, together with the new state of the art Kings College Hospital Dubai, place the school today at the hub of an area that will in the medium term be highly developed.
• No BTEC offer at all; students choose from AS or A Level options only.