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GEMS Westminster School Sharjah, Sharjah Schools Zone, Al Muweilah
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Review

GEMS Westminster School Sharjah, Sharjah Schools Zone, Al Muweilah

by March 24, 2016
Strengths

• GEMS brand
• Founding parents have students have opportunity to shape new school
• English National Curriculum offers international currency
• Concentrated provision for children focused on Arts and Sciences
• Committed head
• Solid EYFS provision
• Value fees /affordability

Weaknesses

• Restricted curriculum not suitable for all children
• Limited subject choices
• School still bedding-in
• Inevitable risks of a new school
• Mixed WhichSchoolAdvisor.com parental feedback
• Leadership distracted by chasing fees
• Phased opening leaves room to spare
• GEMS lack of transparency
• Lack of published inspections in Sharjah to drive improvement and accountability

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

A GEMS school, without bells and whistles, but with the basics in place, high levels of affordability and a restricted curriculum that will suit many in its target market

B-
Our Rating
C
User Rating
You have rated this
Is this school on your shortlist?
Top of shortlist
0%
In my Top 5
18%
Shortlisted
36%
A possibility
9%
Pass
9%
No way
27%

Updated December 2016

GEMS Westminster School Sharjah [GWSS] is a 2518 capacity school offering a British, National Curriculum for England based, education for boys and girls from FS2. The school, established in 2012, is to all intents and purposes a new school and is in a process of transition to opening secondary provision from 2017-18. Whilst GWSS has announced planned opening to Grade 13 and full provision to GCE A’ Level, its handbook currently confirms planned academic provision to AS Level only.

The school is modelled on GEMS Westminster School in Dubai, its largest UK curriculum (IGCSE, AS and A’ Level) school. The Dubai school is currently double the size of its Sharjah counterpart, even when Sharjah does eventually reach capacity, with more than 5,068 students. The Dubai school is also rated “Good” by the KHDA, some achievement given that GEMS mooted its closure in 2014 on the basis of its fees simply being too low to make its provision affordable for the group. That decision has since been reversed.

The schoolscompared.com review of The Westminster School Dubai can be found here: Go

Not unexpectedly in this context, prospective parents should note that, although modeled on its GEMS Westminster School counterpart in Dubai, similarities do not extend to the fees. Fees at The GEMS Westminster School Sharjah are broadly double those parents face in Dubai – 11,000 AED (Sharjah) versus 5,726 AED (Dubai) at FS2; 13,000 AED (Sharjah) versus 7,074 AED (Dubai) in Years 1-6; 15,000 AED (Sharjah) versus 7,634 AED (Dubai) in Years 7-8; 17,000 AED – 19,000 AED (Sharjah) versus 8,982 AED (Dubai) in Years 9-10.

Later years are likely to see a similar pattern as the school continues to phase its opening. The stark difference in fees reverses the usually more expensive fees, for equivalent schools, to be found in Dubai.

This doubling of fees does make an impact on the value proposition of the school, which offers broadly similar levels of provision and curriculum focus.

Regardless of the limits of the school relative to more expensive alternative GEMS schools, however, the GEMS brand does offer cache that the smaller independents simply cannot match. This said, parents expecting a Tier 1 school will be disappointed with facilities and curriculum choice to mirror the pricing. In terms of educational provision, Westminster has had to make trade-offs to achieve the fees – and here this sees students having to choose between a science or business based education without the social science, performing arts or wider Arts choices of GEMS whole-child Tier 1 schools.

This restriction of the curriculum to just two streams is not unusual, and in part GEMS is simply responding to the demands of its predominantly Indian audience. Many parents from the subcontinent (although not all) are happy to trade-off “wishy washy” arts subjects for the “real, career focused” merits of the Sciences (with the goal being medicine) or business (for commerce). Whatever the merits or otherwise of this approach, it does means that Westminster will inevitably fail students who do not fit into these limited silos.

Facilities themselves are functional including a recently constructed canteen; 3 ICT Labs; 9 activity rooms; a large central Auditorium/theatre (with a fabulous sound and lighting system); East Playground; West Playground; 6 General Laboratories; separate Boys and KG/Girls entrances; 4 Contemplation Areas; 3 KG indoor learning areas; 2 Art Rooms ; 2 libraries; a clinic; 2 prayer rooms (one each for boys and girls); dedicated further senior ICT lab; dance room; music room; 2 Biology Labs; 2 Chemistry Labs; 2 Physics Labs; an “Innovation Centre”; and a language Laboratory.

Sporting facilities are basic including an indoor sports hall with 4 courts; cricket nets; new Astroturf playing/footballl field (replacing the sandpits which dominated the school on its opening); and 4 outdoor multi-games courts.

Extra-curricular activities are relatively unambitious with extended provision for extra learning and general provision in sport. Enrichment is supported through standard events (including celebration of National Day).

Prospective parents should note that, whilst the school intake is mixed, boys and girls are educated separately from Year 5. This results in a significant doubling up of facilities with space, in other schools, that could have been used for enhancing the size of individual facilities and the depth of total provision. Boys are not allowed in any downstairs corridor or upstairs West Blocks and girls are not allowed in any downstairs corridor or upstairs East Blocks. Teaching for boys and girls is segregated and each sex has its own entrance to the school.

The school now also supports this segregation with a ban on mobile phones within the school, this because “we are having many issues, such as girls and boys texting each other for secret meetings, photos being taken…”

School buildings themselves are without the bells and whistles, glass, steel, landscaping or architectural curves that parents associate with GEMS – Westminster is better visualized as a functional concrete box style affair, with its surroundings dominated by sand. This has been somewhat improved with Westminster’s development of an Astroturf pitch to replace the sand pits that dominated grounds on the school’s opening.

The school’s head, Valerie Thompson, was internally recruited to launch the school from the GEMS US curriculum Al Khaleej National School. Whichschooladvisor feedback has been very positive, although focused on a perception that she invests significant time chasing fees from parents and that the remaining school leadership and staff is not of her calibre. Further than this, without the depth of an Inspection regime to provide richness of data, the most that can be said is that in order to meet the limits of affordability within the value fee structure, GEMS has not been able to invest in British teaching staff, as it does within its Tier 1 British schools elsewhere, and the majority of teachers, many relatively well qualified, are instead Indian with much lower salary expectations.

The school uses a British Independent type house system. Each child is assigned one of four houses and associated letters on entering the school: F for yellow Falcons; D for blue Dolphins; S for red Scorpions; and H for green Arabian Horses. The school has a number of house competitions, including those in library use, handwriting, Arabic calligraphy, Quran recitation and sports, to drive student ambition and engender a whole-school ethic amongst students. Points are also awarded (or taken away) for personal success in showing improvement, positive attitudes, good and consistent achievement in behaviour, academics, class participation, projects, and students having a positive involvement in school life. The school further supports the system with election of Student Leaders, taking up places as student council members, houses captains, vice house captains, a head boy and girl and a deputy head boy and girl.

The curriculum itself is fairly standard at EYFS/KG level with focus on the seven core areas of Personal, Social & Emotional Learning; Physical Development; Communication & Language; Literacy; Mathematics; Understanding the World; and Expressive Arts & Design. Thereafter the curriculum progressively narrows (see above) to the point in Years 9-10, within an already limited choice of subject provision, that children must choose between Biology or Accounting, Physics or Business Studies; Chemistry or Economics; French or Extra- Mathematics in conjunction with core subjects in English, Mathematics, Arabic; ICT and Islamic Studies.

WhichSchoolAdvisor.com feedback on the school as a whole is fairly balanced, but a significant number of parents express concern at the quality of teaching. It is relatively early days in the life of the school and parents should expect time for the school to bed-in. Many teachers over time will simply find a better fit elsewhere, whilst others will find a natural home. This is something that just takes time. In a value fee structure school, the process of finding the best mix of teachers for a given school will inevitably take longer and, given that the school is still within a phased opening, some degree of instability is inevitable.

This said, parents with reasonable expectations, and willing to avoid the distraction of GEMS provision elsewhere, have a real opportunity, with their children, of shaping a new school to become the very best that it can be. Only time will tell how successful The GEMS Westminster School Sharjah will eventually become – and how much it will be able to meet the undoubted ambitions of the school’s Head and the founding parents who have entrusted it with the significant responsibility of educating their children.

[Prospective parents should note that in the following scoring we cannot rate the school for “Examinations” until the school is fully open. The “Transparency” score reflects GEMS Education policy not to publish examination data for individual schools. This is an acute problem in Sharjah where parents have no recourse to equivalent information to that provided by the Abu Dhabi or Dubai school inspectorates. Prospective parents should also note that this is a tertiary review based on available sources and without access to independent government data.]

Go to the FULL REVIEW on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Go to the OFFICIAL Q&A on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
Details to consider
Type of school

Private, for profit

Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

FS1: NA
FS2: 11,000
YEAR 1: 13,000
YEAR 2: 13,000
YEAR 3: 13,000
YEAR 4: 13,000
YEAR 5: 13,000
YEAR 6: 13,000
YEAR 7: 15,000
YEAR 8: 15,000
YEAR 9: 17,000
YEAR 10: 19,000
YEAR 11: On-stream 2017-18
YEAR 12: On-stream 2018-19
YEAR 13: TBC

Curriculum

National Curriculum for England
(I)GCSE O' Level
GCE AS' Level - confirmed
GCE A/A2 Level - not confirmed

External Exam Boards

Cambridge International Examination [CIM]
ICDL

Number of A Levels offered

11+ (to be confirmed)

A Levels offered

AS Level only advertised in School Handbook (final subjects to be confirmed)
Mathematics
Physics
Chemistry
Biology
Economics
Business Studies
Accounting
English Language
Environmental Management
French
Travel & Tourism

A Level A* to A

Not confirmed (AS Only 2018-19)

A Level A* to C

Not confirmed (AS only 2018-19)

IGCSE A* to C

On-stream 2017-18

IGCSE A* to A

On-stream 2017-18

Number of I/GCSEs Offered

8+ (to be confirmed)

I/GCSEs offered

English
Arabic
Mathematics
Social Studies
Combined Science
Computer Studies / ICT
Art
French

Selective

Yes
Notes:
(1) Application via GEMS Oasis
(2) "... admission process includes academic and developmental assessments to identify those students most likely to benefit from our program."
(3) "Special Educational Needs Coordinator is able to support a small number of SEN students
(4) "Where a student requires additional support we may ask parents to provide a Shadow Teacher."

Waiting list

No

Value Added

Not published (WSA projection MEDIUM)

Number of Students

Capacity: 2518
Notes:
(1) Phased opening of Years 11 - 12 from 2017-18
(2) Year 13 announced but not confirmed

Teacher to Student Ratio

1:16
Notes:
(1) Calculation based on GEMS committed phased capacity of 2516 and staffing of 160
(2) School confirmed capacity in WSA Official Q&A during phased opening

Largest nationality teachers

Indian

Teacher turnover

Not published

Year opened

2012

Location

Sharjah Schools Zone, Al Muweilah, Sharjah

Student composition

Indian (largest nationality)
Nationalities: 45

Gender

Mixed, not co-educational - boys and girls educated separately from Year 5

School canteen

Yes
Note:
(1) A packed lunch is required for all KG & younger Primary students

Owner

GEMS Education

Admissions Telephone

+971 (0) 6 542 6323

Web Address
Attainment Nur SEM

No inspection data available (Sharjah has no equivalent school inspectorate)

Attainment Pri SEM

No inspection data available (Sharjah has no equivalent school inspectorate)

Attainment Sec SEM

No inspection data available (Sharjah has no equivalent school inspectorate)

Attainment Post-16 SEM

On-stream 2017-18

Progress Nur SEM

No inspection data available (Sharjah has no equivalent school inspectorate)

Progress Pri SEM

No inspection data available (Sharjah has no equivalent school inspectorate)

Progress Sec SEM

No inspection data available (Sharjah has no equivalent school inspectorate)

Progress Post-16 SEM

On-stream 2017-18

Arabic Native Primary Results (Native)

No inspection data available (Sharjah has no equivalent school inspectorate)

Arabic Secondary Results (Native)

No inspection data available (Sharjah has no equivalent school inspectorate)

Arabic Post-16 Results (Native)

On-stream 2017-18

Arabic Primary Results (Add.)

No inspection data available (Sharjah has no equivalent school inspectorate)

Arabic Secondary Results (Add.)

No inspection data available (Sharjah has no equivalent school inspectorate)

Arabic Post-16 Results (Add.)

On-stream 2017-18

Islamic St. Primary Results

No inspection data available (Sharjah has no equivalent school inspectorate)

Islamic St. Secondary Results

No inspection data available (Sharjah has no equivalent school inspectorate)

Islamic St. Post-16 Results

On-stream 2017-18

Leadership

No inspection data available (Sharjah has no equivalent school inspectorate)

Community

No inspection data available (Sharjah has no equivalent school inspectorate)

Facilities

No inspection data available (Sharjah has no equivalent school inspectorate)

Quality of teaching

No inspection data available (Sharjah has no equivalent school inspectorate)

Student personal responsibility

No inspection data available (Sharjah has no equivalent school inspectorate)

Quality of curriculum

No inspection data available (Sharjah has no equivalent school inspectorate)

School Governance

No inspection data available (Sharjah has no equivalent school inspectorate)

SEN Provision

No inspection data available (Sharjah has no equivalent school inspectorate)

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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