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GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi, Al Reem Island – The Review 2024
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At a Glance

IB PYP/EYFS students at GEMS World Academy in Abu Dhabi at the new Reem Island campus.

GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi (WAA) is a premium, Tier 1 full IB continuum school – and arguably the crown jewels of GEMS Education’s IB offer in the capital. The curriculum is firmly rooted in the knowledge content of British Education – but uses the IB pedagogy, learning profiles, inquiry focus and framework. The school currently educates around 900 students to Year 9, with Year 10 opening in September 2024. There are 76 different nationalities of students. Phased launch to British/IB Sixth Form, rooted in both the IB Diploma and (likely OCR Cambridge National/Technical-founded Career-related Programme qualifications in Sport and the Performing Arts), will follow.

GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi offers all the history that comes with its having been one of the most adored IB Primary schools in the capital, with today’s new Tier 1 premium all-through campus at the heart of its new location in Reem Island. This is a school that has everything, including the choice between both world-class academic and technical stream IB graduating pathways, British subject framework (and in the case of technical stream provision pureplay UK qualifications), and the capacity to differentiate pathways and subject qualifications still further according to the needs of its students.

The “World Academy” brand carries a lot of pressure to deliver, but this school does not let parents down.  The potential, built on commitment to hyper-individualised learning opportunities, is all here for a school to set the benchmark for Tier 1 Outstanding blended IB provision in the UAE.

Such is the popularity of the school today, the vision of Dino Varkey, Group Chief Executive Officer, GEMS Education, in personally leading the switch of GEMS World Academy from its historic Common Core US underpinnings of the IB to new British underpinnings of the IB at the new Reem Campus, is described to us as “visionary.”

What is the problem being solved here? What is the question being answered? There are many – but one is how to combine a British and IB education without putting all students in an IB Diploma boat where the fit is just not there and many will sink as a result. Another is how to create a school that delivers to the needs of every child – including those for whom a pure technical education outside the IB may be needed. IB schools generally do not have this card to play; at best they have only the Career-related Programme (often in reserve) – and that is fundamentally an IB qualification and mode of study, not one defined by the choice of technical grounding qualification. Remember, no parent, or school, can know how each child will develop and what their interests and needs will be as they grow with a school. A school that guarantees perfect outcomes for all children – because it has every tool in the box ready for them – that is the hugely ambitious aspiration here for an education that leaves no child behind.

Back Story and Introduction

Review of GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi by

Pictured: Mrs Tabitha Barda, Senior Editor, (Left); Mr Kelvin Hornsby, Principal and Chief Executive Officer, GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi (Centre); and Mrs Eimear McKenna-Singh, Head of Business, Which Media Group (Right) at the official visit to WAA in March 2024.

The original Primary-only IB school


It is rare to find a dedicated International Baccalaureate KG, let alone a GEMS school carrying the World Academy premium brand – or one situated in the heart of Abu Dhabi, but until 2022, this is exactly what GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi delivered.  At this time GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi had a city centre location on Fatima Bint Mubarak Street in the Al Dhafrah area, and operated as a small dedicated primary only. It was, then, a world away from its Tier 1 premium powerhouse namesake all-through in Dubai.

Map showing directions to and location of GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi

The location of the previous incarnation of GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi – an American underpinned IB Primary. Today the school has switched to being resolutely British IB.

The schools could then not have been more different. There were no sparkling glass facades and none of the bells or whistles evident from the exterior at all. In fact, from the outside, the old GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi could be kindly described as traditional. The design was resolutely “old school” with two floors constructed around the de rigueur central quadrangle/sports facility.  Inside the substance was, as you would expect, however, of a school carrying the GEMS World Academy brand, plentiful – delivering a fabulous, cutting edge, hugely warm ADEC accredited A2 International Baccalaureate PYP primary ensuring a Very Good education for its children with Outstanding features.

GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi, then,  was home to 518 children between the ages of 4 years and 10 years exclusively, covering the KG to Grade 5 Primary Years Programme.  At this point, students  qualified, and for the most part graduated to, GEMS American Academy, reviewed here – a great school and one equally recognised by ADEK as a Very Good school with Outstanding features.  But it was a trek at around a half hour journey  for parents with children split between the schools. For many years it seemed that there was no solution –  the site did not lend itself to an expansion of GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi to an all-through school – there simply was not the room.

All new GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi 2022 

In 2022 GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi moved to its current landmark new site on Al Reem Island, offering parents and students the opportunity, in phased launch, of a premium, Tier 1 GEMS World Academy education all the way through to Year 13 IB British Sixth Form.

At a sweep the school transformed from an IB school grounded in US knowledge and structures – and with a separate US slipstream school, to an IB school resolutely grounded in the British knowledge and structures all the way from EYFS to Sixth Form.

The result? Not only are families now able to avoid moving schools – they now have the opportunity of an all-through IB Education through PYP and MYP to the choice of International Baccalaureate Diploma, or Career-related, Programmes. The content of the PYP is immersed in the British Early Years Framework (EYFS) and National Curriculum for England (NCfE), whilst that content is approached through the resolutely IB learning focus on interdisciplinarity, creativity and innovation.

Under discussion too are future further pathways in parallel with the IB  through I/GCSE or OCR Cambridge Nationals, through to OCR Cambridge Nationals – but the exact shape of future provision remains in development.

Principal and Chief Executive Officer, Kelvin Hornsby, told

“GEMS World Academy – Abu Dhabi (WAA) provides learners and their families with a hyper-personalised and future-proofed education – one that has reimagined learning to deliver high performance for every student.

Our state-of-the-art building and campus enable our world-class leaders and teachers to provide learning experiences that are among the best in Abu Dhabi and the UAE.”

GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi became a fully authorised International Baccalaureate World School for the PYP only in June 2014. The school is currently working through its candidacy for the MYP.


GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi is  a tier 1 premium GEMS Education powerhouse for the IB in Abu Dhabi with an all-new, purpose built campus offering an exceptionally high level of facility provision and investment in students. Stand-out post-16 graduating streams in both the IB Diploma Programme and Technical stream alternative Career Programme offer qualifications able to meet the needs of every child. In future years we could see open up dual stream British and IB pathways at Sixth Form, including technical stream OCR Nationals, but time will tell as the school phases its opening to full all-through. Certainly the commitment is here for individualised learning to the nth.  On this note, GEMS World Academy is led by one of GEMS Education’s highest profile educationalists, this telling of GEMS’ investment in a school seen as pivotal reputationally for Tier 1 premium, world-class, education delivery in the capital.

Whatever the final shape of provision, it does look like GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi could be the first school in the UAE to underpin the Career-related Programme with the OCR Cambridge counterpart to Pearson BTEC.

The school is also looking at providing Level 3 Cambridge Technical qualifications for older students, potentially to age 20, as part of a broader inclusion strategy.

If that was not enough ambition, the aim too, is for GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi to be the first IB candidate school for the IB Career-related Programme in Abu Dhabi.

And  more… the aim is also for stand-alone pureplay technical qualifications outside the Career-related Programme, potentially with either BTEC or Cambridge Nationals. There may well be too, options for GCSE qualification study – but this will be guided the needs of students.

According to Principal and Chief Executive Officer, Kelvin Hornsby:

“We are trying to make sure we have all areas covered so that learners really do have the options that they want – and we want to unlock some options that they have not even thought of.”


GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi is located on Al Reem Island which has evolved as something of an educational powerhouse location, hosting not only GEMS World Academy, but also Repton and Nord Anglia International Schools (both UK curriculum). The school is around 15-minutes drivetime from downtown Abu Dhabi and is a hub IB school not only for communities across the capital but also the communities within Al Reem itself.

The competition here, which is significant, works to the benefits of students; these are three of the highest performing schools in the Emirates, and opportunities are opened in across every aspect of whole child provision, including in competitive sports where it helps to have serious competition on your doorstep.

GEMS World Academy, at least currently, however, is the de facto IB Schooling option for parents seeking an IB education on Al Reem Island and its environs. Only elsewhere does IB competition filter into the mix, this from Nord Anglia Education’s British International School Abu Dhabi (BISAD) – some half an hour’s drive time away to the South East of the capital.


Map showing Directions to GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi


Transport for GEMS World Academy is provided by Bright Bus Transport (BBT), part of School Transport Services. The Group has a reputation for the quality of its service and transports more than eighty thousand children each year.  Each bus is equipped with seat belts, GPS tracking, Driver Fatigue Camera, RFIS Student Tracking, Route Optimisation, CCTV cameras, sleep check buttons and a Bus Monitor employed to ensure the safety of every child on their journey to and from school.

The bus service covers most of the city, with only limited exceptions.

Design and Architecture

A rare early architectural render of GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi released prior to its building.

A rare early architectural render of GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi released prior to its building.

GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi is an 1866 capacity school.  Phase 1 of the development sees the school is set over a total area of 28,890 m2 (G+1+R) with a built-up area of 15,275 sqm. Phase 2 aims to sees full introduction of state-of-the-art secondary provision including a full Design-Technology-Robotics-Innovation Suite, Art Suite and new landmark Science Labs in Physics, Chemistry and Biology. The new block (yet to be formally confirmed), which would, ideally open, in April 2025, will see a Centre for Arts and Entertainment, Gaming and Coding and a plethora of outdoor spaces. Older students will access their own bistro as part of an offer modelled on recognising older students with responsibility as they grow with the school.

Architecture and Design at WAA on Reem Island

Design philosophy is rich in detail, ambitious and focused on offering an inspirational home and backdrop for and to each child’s education. We are promised that the next stage of development will be even more “shock and awe.”

Fees and Value for Money

YEAR GROUP 2024-2025
FS1 AED 54,000
FS2 AED 58,000
Year 1 AED 58,000
Year 2 AED 64,000
Year 3 AED 64,000
Year 4 AED 64,000
Year 5 AED 64,000
Year 6 AED 64,000
Year 7 AED 66,000
Year 8 AED 66,0006
Year 9 AED 66,000
Year 10 AED 66,000
Year 11 AED 72,000
Year 12 AED 72,000
Year 13 AED 72,000

For FS1 entry, students must have turned three years old by 31 August in the year of admission, four years old by 31 August in the year of admission for FS2 entry.


Facilities include:

Main entrance and reception GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi 2024 Review Visit

  • Main Entrance and Reception
  • Music rooms
  • Practice studios
  • Art rooms
  • Activity rooms
  • (Stunning) landmark library
  • Arabic and Islamic Education learning spaces
  • Canteen and dining area
  • Book shop
  • Uniform shop
  • Prayer rooms
  • Parent café and bistro
  • Lounge
  • Innovation Studio
  • Robotics Lab
  • Science labs for Chemistry, Physics and Biology
  • Innovation studio (Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality)
  • State-of-the-art network technology including a secure wireless network
  • Indoor play areas

  • Apple ICT Labs designed around the needs of children at each phase of learning
  • Outdoor play areas

Theatre and Performing Arts facilities at GEMS World Academy in Abu Dhabi

  • Six-court multipurpose hall with audio-visual equipment and a permanent theatre staging
  • Football pitch

Pictured: extremely high quality and beautifully maintained competition pool at GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi photographed in March 2024

  • 25-metre, six-lane swimming pool
  • Learner pool

Classrooms are bright and at younger phases decorated with children’s work which brings the whole school to life.

Extra-curricular activities include football; Lego; board games; weaving; Quran; bowling; multiple sports and holiday camps in association with ESM. ESM further provide karate, Capoeira, gymnastics and teacher-run ASAs including yoga and Zumba.


As you would expect from its history, the hybrid PYP EYFS provision is outstanding. The curriculum model takes the best of the approach of the IB to learning and applies it to the globally accepted knowledge strengths of British EYFS. It’s so clever – and gives students rock-solid, creativity and innovation driven foundations for future learning.

Current provision to Year 9 is focused on the following subject areas:

  • Design
  • Technology
  • Visual Arts
  • Music
  • Theatre, Drama and the Performing Arts
  • Physical Education
  • English Language
  • English Literature
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Innovation and Digital Learning
  • Computing/ICT
  • History
  • Geography
  • UAE Social, Moral and Cultural Studies
  • Arabic and Islamic French
  • Sustainable Development Goals and Environmental Science
  • Business, Entrepreneurship and Enterprise

Further whole child study is offered in:

  • Community and Environmental engagement
  • Empathy and Charity
  • Personal, Social and Health Education
  • Student Wellbeing

More than one hundred ECAs stretch across a broad spectrum of activities from almost every conceivable sports, to Robotics, Digital Storytelling, Drama, Photography, Islamic Art, Cooking and Dance.


Sport and sporting facilities are Tier 1 at GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi at its new campus on Reem Island.

Sports include athletics, ballet, basketball, cricket, dance, football, netball, rounders, rugby, swimming, tennis, volleyball, Yoga, Dance, gymnastics and cross-country – and the school promises “pathways from grassroots participation to elite performer level.”

Swimming at GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi WAA

Sport is an inclusive activity with Sports Day a highlight of community life (see below) – and an event in which taking part is celebrated as much as winning. This approach is driven in no small part by the recognition that inspiring a love of Sport in all children is vital to later life and health.

The aim is squarely on delivering the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme with an Option in Sport grounded in British OCR Level 3 Cambridge Technical in Sport and Physical Activity – see below:



Sport is celebrated across the life of the school:

Performing Arts

Music is a curriculum highlight at GEMS World Academy in Abu Dhabi

Investment here is significant, and centred on the fabulous 300-seat theatre with full audio-visual facilities. A plethora of Drama rooms and Suites support the curriculum delivery. The aim is squarely on delivering the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme with an Option in Performing Arts grounded in British OCR Level 3 Cambridge Technical in Performing Arts – see below:

547357-performing-arts-qualifications-summary-brochure (1)

The broader Expressive Arts at GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi includes Art, Dance, Drama, Film and Digital Media and Music.


Investment in Music begins early at GEMS World Academy, and we see here the impact of British Primary and EYFS focus on acquisition of knowledge and experience as levers to develop physical and conceptual giftedness.

The Music Department comprises multiple practice rooms and investment in instruments we rank outstanding:

The celebration of Music within the school is evident and powerful:

Fine and Visual Arts

Pictured: Mixed Media Art Work by Ludmila Conti

Again, investment in Fine Art reflect the overall Tier 1 commitment to the whole child. Both indoor and outdoor Art spaces abound – and Fine Art is engineered and celebrated within the school as a means of engendering community as well as recognising talent. Typical of the IB, the context is also multi-disciplinary, with Art reflecting broader themes and invention across subjects as diverse as design and technology to the broader Performing Arts and English.

School Leadership

Photograph of Kelvin Hornsby, Principal and Chief Executive Officer of GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi WAA as part of the 2024 school review by

Pictured: Kelvin Hornsby, Principal and Chief Executive Officer, GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi

Kelvin Hornsby brings to GEMS World Academy more than a decade’s experience in the United Kingdom, latterly from his work as Director of Education for 32 academy all through schools for students between 3 and 1 8 years of age.

In 2016 Mr Hornsby moved to the UAE and joined GEMS Education as Principal of Cambridge International School Abu Dhabi, taking the school from its first Cambridge IGCSE results to Cambridge International A Level.

In 2022 he became Principal and CEO of GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi. Mr Hornsby is also GEMS’ Cambridge Brand Leader,  Chairman of the Cambridge School Council (since November 2022) and is GEMS Education’s Senior Vice President Education, supporting eight schools in Abu Dhabi, a post held since June 2016.

Mr Hornsby secured his Master in Educational Leadership from Nottingham Trent University in 2000.

School Prospectus and Parent Handbook – Primary

GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi prospectus 2018 GEMS World Academy Student Parent Handbook 2019

ADEK Inspection

GEMS World Academy is ranked an ADEK Very Good School with Outstanding Features at its last inspection, although its last inspection took place prior to its move to its new Al Reem campus – and prior to the school expanding curricular provision beyond Primary phases.

Stand-out features of GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi for ADEK include:

  • Outstanding child progress in English – the backbone of the curriculum and one driving standards across all areas of the PYP.
  • Children genuinely “love coming to school” – a testament to the “outstanding quality of protection, care, guidance and support of students.”
  • A rare example of a school that is “considerably” improving its performance for children in Arabic subjects – an area that the vast majority of international schools struggle with.
  •  Highly engaged parents hugely supportive of the school nurturing a vibrant school community.
  • Very Good school leadership succeeding in making rapid progress towards achieving outstanding school status.
  • Outstanding personal development of all children


The school is SEND selective; entrance is subject to the Head and admissions staff being sure that the school will be able to properly meet the needs of the pupil. Support for children for whom English is an Additional Language [EAL] is excellent. GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi is rigorously, and by conviction, academically inclusive.

Over 13% of learners are supported for specific needs, this opening up to all of these students inclusive access to GEMS World Academy premium provision. This is unheard of in the capital.

GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi Bottom Line?  The Verdict

GEMS World Academy Buildings

The World Academy brand carries significant cache as an elite school for GEMS Education; its multi-Top Schools Award-winning Dubai sister is a stunning, purpose built Tier 1 ultra-premium with an Emirates-wide recognition of the calibre of its leadership, quality of education across-the-board but with special recognition of its offering for girls and young women, and happy school dynamics in which children are resolutely placed at the centre of the universe. Investment in every child-related, and needed, facility and aspect of learning is second to no school in the UAE.

This is exactly the sorts of focus we are beginning to see in Abu Dhabi. Certainly this remains a school focused on intimate, warm and dedicated whole-child provision in the Early Years – an area of curriculum provision you would expect for it to shine in its strengths of provision and expertise.

The value proposition here, in a nutshell, is GEMS powerhouse investment in  premium teaching and leadership – but within a relatively small and intimate school founded in its DNA on delivering to the very different needs of every children. Schools like this, delivering genuinely personalised learning for every child, are inherently expensive to run – notwithstanding GEMS economies of scale.

Teaching, especially in Science, English and Mathematics are excellent – GEMS invests heavily in recruiting not only qualified teachers, but genuinely committed and passionate faculty committed to on-going development, their students and teaching as a vocation as well as a profession.

Parents get a school that delivers for children individually, academically and whole child, and one where children and teachers know each others names and are showered with the sort of care and attention it is nigh on impossible to achieve in larger schools.

For many that is beyond priceless.

The exact shape of later provision is the key years from Year 10 is still being worked through – but the level of ambition is exceptional and we expect a stellar offer when Year 10 opens in September 2024 with British IB Sixth Form to follow.

Highly recommended.

Further information

Are you looking for a place for your child, and want help from our school consultants? If so, click on the link below, and we will forward your request for information to the school or schools of the same type that we are confident have availability. This is a free service for our readers from in association with

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Visit the official GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi web site here.

© A WhichMedia Group publication. 2024 – 2025. All rights reserved.

Details to consider
2018/19 Overall ADEK / KHDA Rating

2021/22: Very Good with Outstanding Features (Highest performing, Grade A2)
2018/19: Very Good with Outstanding Features (Highest performing, Grade A2)

2017/18 Overall ADEC / KHDA Rating

Very Good with Outstanding Features (Highest performing, Grade A2)

2016/17 Overall ADEC / KHDA Rating

Very Good with Outstanding Features (Highest performing, Grade A2)

Rating FS

Very Good

Rating Primary / Elementary

Very Good - Outstanding

Rating Secondary / Middle

Coming 2024 - 2025

Rating Post 16 / High

Coming 2024 - 2025

Type of school

Private, for-profit

Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

KG1: 54,000
KG2: 58,000
YEAR 1: 58,000
YEAR 2: 64,000
YEAR 3: 64,000
YEAR 4: 64,000
YEAR 5: 64,000
YEAR 6: 64,000
YEAR 7: 66,000
YEAR 8: 66,000
YEAR 9: 66,000
YEAR 10: 66,000
YEAR 11: 72,000
YEAR 12: 72,000
YEAR 13: 72,000


Blended British IB:
International Baccalaureate® (IB) Primary Years Program (PYP)
International Baccalaureate® (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP)
International Baccalaureate® (IB) Diploma Programme (IB DP)
International Baccalaureate® (IB) Career-related Programme (IB CP)

Under consideration:
OCR Cambridge Nationals
OCR Cambridge Technical
Pearson BTEC

External Exam Boards

International Baccalaureate® (IB)
Cambridge International


(1) "staffed to support learners with physical disabilities and not selective."
(2) Academically and culturally inclusive

Waiting list

Applications open.

Value Added

Not published.

Number of Students

Circa 950 (March 2024)

Teacher to Student Ratio


Largest nationality teachers

UK, American and Canadian
[also European, Australian, New Zealand and South African]

Teacher turnover

15% (below average)

Year opened

Move to Reem Island 2022


Reem Island


Mixed, co-educational

School canteen



GEMS Education

Admissions Telephone

+971 2 659 5959

Web Address
Attainment Nur SEM


Attainment Pri SEM


Attainment Sec SEM


Attainment Post-16 SEM


Progress Nur SEM


Progress Pri SEM


Progress Sec SEM


Progress Post-16 SEM


Arabic Native Primary Results (Native)


Arabic Secondary Results (Native)


Arabic Post-16 Results (Native)


Arabic Primary Results (Add.)


Arabic Secondary Results (Add.)


Arabic Post-16 Results (Add.)


Islamic St. Primary Results


Islamic St. Secondary Results


Islamic St. Post-16 Results








Quality of teaching


Student personal responsibility


Quality of curriculum


School Governance


SEN Provision



• Outstanding feedback from parents - this is a very loved school that comes highly promoted by its families to parents looking for outstanding schooling in the capital
• Fastest growing IB school in Abu Dhabi
• Promise of multiple first and USPs for IB education in the capital including being the pioneer school for the IB Career-Programme in the Emirate and leading stand-alone technical stream pathways built around OPCR Cambridge leading pathways in Sport and the Performing Arts
• Beautiful school design and architecture
• THE hub IB school for Reem Island
• Fabulous core IB Primary Years Curriculum with interesting, effective blending with British EYFS content and substance
• Outstanding high profile and accomplished school leadership that cascade responsibilities through each phase of IB and whole child life at the school
• High cache brand
• GEMS investment in a very high calibre of teachers
• High levels of ongoing investment


• School still in phased launch so the exact shape of final provision is not fixed

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GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi defies the odds by offering a rare and special combination of human scale, warmth, specialised Primary IB provision, location, very high quality GEMS teaching and hugely ambitious aims to offer hyper-individualised learning for every child. Highly recommended.

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About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of and UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at]

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