Now Reading
GEMS Wellington Primary School, Jumeirah 1 – THE REVIEW
Good for Sport

GEMS Wellington Primary School, Jumeirah 1 – THE REVIEW

by April 6, 2020

Updated April 2020 – GEMS Wellington Primary School – exclusive school visits, KHDA 2019/20, BSO Outstanding school status, Outstanding school leadership


An image of a young girl with a paintbrush at GEMS Wellington Primary School in Dubai

Located behind the Shangri-la Hotel on the edges of Jumeirah, GEMS Wellington Primary School celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2017, following its founding in 2007. Its location is at the heart of a thriving community brought to life by the spectacular vistas the school enjoys facing the Sheikh Zayed Road. 

Map showing the location of GEMS Wellington Primary School in Dubai

GEMS Wellington Primary School is ranked “Very Good with Outstanding Features” by the Dubai Inspectorate of schools, an award it has held for the last three years.

GEMS Wellington Primary School has also achieved the highest rating awarded by British Schools Overseas (November 2016 Inspection), securing Grade 1 Outstanding recognition for the quality of its (innovative) curriculum; the strength of teaching and assessment; depth of whole child development; the formidable way it meets the needs of its highly inclusive intake; the academic progress of children from defined starting points on entering the school; and, determined, charismatic school leadership with high integrity and vision. More on this below.

By way of introduction, and choosing one of the many stand-out of the features of GEMS Wellington Primary School to highlight, we would draw parents attention to the very inclusive, welcoming philosophy of the school.


Whilst the school has not currently made available added value data to us (we will update our review should this data may be available), parents are advised to look at the creditable differential highlighted by the KHDA between student attainment and the (“Very Good”) level of progress achieved by its children. GEMS Wellington Parimary School delivers beyond expectation for the vast majority of its children, with highly differentiated learning to meet the needs of individual children across the spectrum of abilities (including Gifted and Talented). The (sensitively adapted) curriculum that underpins this differentiation is, as above, innovative, and outstanding. Parents considering the school should note that communication with parents is another strength of the school and added value information is widely shared internally.

Parents should note that, in our view, GEMS Wellington Primary School shines in its genuinely inclusive welcome and, unlike other schools, the way it refuses to “stack the decks” by welcoming only the most academically gifted children. There is a balance to be drawn between creating a happy, creative, whole child focused school and one driven to deliver academic attainment at whatever the cost for just some children. It is at least arguable that GEMS Wellington Primary has struck a perfect balance here, a view supported by the exceptional relationships the school enjoys with parents and our finding a school both alive to learning and one very evidently “buzzing” with very happy, and stimulated children. GEMS Wellington Primary delivers an outstanding education for every child.


KHDA Findings and Strengths in Digital Learning

Independent review of GEMS Wellington Primary School for parents - Digital and online larning is a major strength of the school

Beyond celebrating inclusion, as above, the other core areas highlighted by the Dubai Inspectorate include:

  • The school’s outstanding, “vibrant, supportive and creative” learning environment across all phases with stand-out care for children
  • Outstanding ECA and enrichment provision
  • Outstanding facility provision

This is supported by the views of BSO inspectors recorded in their particularly complimentary inspection.

Buildings of GEMS Wellington Primary School

One of the key ways we judge English National Curriculum primary schools is in the ways they balance delivering a British education and the values and culture that go with this, whilst also inspiring an understanding and appreciation for the broader international context of education.

At, we feel that this is exceptionally important. Building, at such an early age, an appreciation of international context and, ideally broader language skills, gives expat children educated in the UAE a big advantage over children educated in, for example, the UK.

Surprisingly, there are still British (and its even more true of many US schools) that operate in a vacuum, taking away some of the real advantages that flow from being educated abroad. Equally, as here, this relationship must be two-way, with international children also securing the benefits of understanding and being inspired by the British context of their education. GEMS Wellington Primary is a good model in this respect, although, as with all British curriculum schools, Arabic language learning is challenging difficult for the majority of children. 

A good example of innovation is evident in the on-line learning resource delivered, in most part, by the children themselves. On-line teaching here is first class – and the skills of the school in this area have proved invaluable during the Coronavirus Covid 19 necessitated move to Distance Learning.


It’s worth noting the feedback from our last independent visit to the school:

“I left with the strong impression of a happy, family orientated, community school with excellent facilities and absolutely outstanding leadership.”


BSO Rating – Outstanding

GEMS Wellington Primay School is rated by the BSO as Outstanding – it’s highest award. The full report follows:



Facilities and SchoolsCompared Visits, September 2017, June 2018, 2019-20

Facilities are Premium, Tier 1 including an outdoor AstroTurf football area, as well as shaded basketball hard courts and 2 pools. We rate overall facility and Sports provision at GEMS Wellington Primary School Outstanding. For this phase of education, sporting facilities are some of the best available in the UAE. 

GEMS Wellington Primary School Review - Swimming and Sport

GEMS Wellington Primary School Review - Outdoor basketball Court & Play area

GEMS Wellington Primary School FS1 Swimming Pool

There is a large Auditorium which doubles for Sport; (fabulous) 3 Music Rooms; 4 ICT suites; Music Performance rooms and Art Rooms – as well as a (genuinely) well-stocked library.

GEMS Wellington Primary School Music Studio

It’s not though a “bells and whistles” school sparkling with modern chrome and artifice – expect a lived in, hugely warm typically British home grown Primary feel. There’s a mix of old and new buildings, evidencing GEMS ongoing investment in the school. Rooms are light and airy. There’s a particularly fabulous and large breakout space in FS1 with stepped padded seating areas for informal learning.  The whole school is deceptively large, but the school fills its spaces with activities and life so that, if anything, there is a sense of compression and intimacy. Discovery lies around every corner. Bottom line: children want for nothing.

ECA provision and enrichment is as good as it gets; there are simply too many options to list here in full. Orchestra, Super Scientist, Dance Fever …. these are the tip of an iceberg that well captures the ambition. Many schools talk the talk about delivering to each individual’s child’s ambitions, needs and gifts – and in many cases a look at the breadth and depth of ECA provision quickly tells you a very different story. At GEMS Wellington Primary School the investment in each child’s development outside academics is more than evident – and a clear pillar of the school’s strategy to build community and the self confidence of children so integral to their academic development. It’s a virtuous circle clearly recognised by the school that links each child to their peers, family, broader community and teachers in a journey of discovery that is clearly, and impressively, working.


GEMS Wellington Primary School Leadership

Catherine McKeever, Principa of GEMS Wellington Primary School, welcoming children

On our June 2019 visit we met Catherine McKeever, the new Principal and CEO of GEMS Wellington Primary School. In post since March 2018, she brings with her a wealth of experience drawn from GEMS, both as the Former Principal of the KHDA Outstanding and much loved Jumeirah Primary School (20154 – 2016) – and as the Former Principal of the Tier 1, International Baccalaureate curriculum GEMS World Academy in Switzerland (2016 – 18). Ms McKeever began her career teaching in California where she spent five years before returning to London to teach in a spectrum of schools, including challenging inner city schools which only strengthened her vocation for teaching and making a difference in children’s lives. After 5 years of teaching in the US she returned to the UK which soon led to her first Headship appointment in London. She finished her career in the capital as the Head teacher of the Outstanding St. Joseph’s Primary School in Maida Vale where she spent five years (2008 – 2013) before being recruited by GEMS.

During our half day’s visit, we found Ms McKeever impressive, hugely warm and inspirational with a clear vocation for education that her more than two decade’s teaching in and leading schools has done nothing to dilute:

“I can remember having a conversation with my friends when I was young about “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and I was absolutely astonished that they didn’t know what they wanted to do. I just thought that it was inbuilt and everybody knew what they wanted to do! When I was asked, I always said “Well, I’m going to be a teacher.”

Primary education is so important. I think that it starts with our little ones because you have to build a very strong foundation in the Early Years. It is so important to start with the core essentials and work upwards.

It is also important for parents to feel they have a listening ear. I always make sure that parents have excellent communication lines with their child’s teacher so that when a student is learning, the parent understands very well how they learn. This parental engagement is very important in helping children succeed.

It’s hard to predict the future and change is so rapid, but providing we create adaptable students who, when something unknown comes along, can be flexible (I like to use the word nimble and often think we need a brain like an elastic band!), they will not be phased and will be able to handle the situation.

That is the challenge of modern education in my opinion, creating adaptive students who are capable of delivering under any circumstances.”

Catherine McKeever, Principal and CEO of GEMS Wellington Primary School, as quoted in International School Parent

During our visit we learned of ongoing investment by GEMS in its flagship primary and of the award of GEMS Outstanding Teacher of the Year to GEMS Wellington Primary School’s Sharon Robertson, Head of Foundation. We particularly liked Ms McKeever’s celebration of her teachers – and her pride in their teaching and care of children was evident and inspiring.
We also learned of the importance Ms McKeever places on inspiring a love of reading within children – as a means to not only instill high competency in reading – but also to create great writers.

“The aim is to have balanced readers in all ages.  Learning to decode, fluency, phrasing & comprehension across every genre and text type. Having all these skills enables children to be balanced reader and writers.”

Catherine McKeever, Principal and CEO of GEMS Wellington Primary School, as quoted in International School Parent

As during our last visit, we were struck at the small school feel from a school which, in practice, has a role of some 1100 pupils.


Bottom Line? The Verdict 2020

GEMS Wellington Primary School in Dubai

GEMS Wellington Primary School missed out on consideration for our Best Primary School in Dubai and Abu Dhabi this year. On the basis of our recent visit, its very likely that it would have secured a very well earned place in our view of the top-5 best primary schools in the UAE. This is a fiercely impressive, values-rich, nurturing inclusive school led by a very strong Principal.

In a recent internal poll of parent, students and staff across all GEMS schools, GEMS Wellington Primary School was placed first in terms of satisfaction from both Parents and Students. Little wonder we found a school that that lights up the spark of imagination, self belief and ambition in its children.

It’s also one, in our view, that deserves a place on any parent’s shortlist of potential primary schools for their children.

Very highly recommended.

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 our sister site WhichSchoolAdvisor.
Request School Information

Details to consider
2018/19 Overall ADEK / KHDA Rating

Very Good with Outstanding features

2017/18 Overall ADEC / KHDA Rating

Very Good with Outstanding features

2016/17 Overall ADEC / KHDA Rating

Very Good with Outstanding features

2015/16 Overall KHDA / ADEC Rating

Very Good with Outstanding features

Rating FS

Very Good

Rating Primary / Elementary

Very Good

Rating Secondary / Middle


Rating Post 16 / High


Type of school

Private, for-profit

WSA Good School

Under consideration 2021-22

Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

Pre KG / FS1: AED 43,388
KG 1 / FS2: AED 54,691
KG 2 / Year 1: AED 54,691
Grade 1 / Year 2: AED 54,691
Grade 2 / Year 3: AED 54,691
Grade 3 / Year 4: AED 54,691
Grade 4 / Year 5: AED 54,691
Grade 5 / Year 6: AED 54,691
YEAR 7: "Placement for Year 7 at GEMS Schools across Dubai."
YEAR 8: "Placement for Year 7 at GEMS Schools across Dubai."
YEAR 9: "Placement for Year 7 at GEMS Schools across Dubai."
YEAR 10: "Placement for Year 7 at GEMS Schools across Dubai."
YEAR 11: "Placement for Year 7 at GEMS Schools across Dubai."
YEAR 12: "Placement for Year 7 at GEMS Schools across Dubai."
YEAR 13: "Placement for Year 7 at GEMS Schools across Dubai."
(1) Annual fee average: AED 53,500 based on annual fees AED 43,388 - 54,691
(2) School category: Premium/Tier 1


British Curriculum/International
(1) Primary only
(2) EYFS - English/UK National Curriculum


Fully inclusive
(1) Significant SEND intake
(2) Age-related placement test
(3) EAL inclusive
(4) "Families are welcome to apply to GWPS regardless of nationality, ethnicity, gender or religion."

Waiting list

Open for 2020-21 registration only

Value Added

Not published

Number of Students

1100 (May 2018)

Teacher to Student Ratio

1:20 (FS1-2, Years 1 - 3) - 1 TA per class until Year 2
1:27 (Years 4 - 6)

Largest nationality teachers


Teacher turnover

2019-2020: 20%
(1) 25% (2018-19)
(1) 17% (2017-18)
(2) 31% (2016-17)

Year opened



Al Satwa, Dubai

Student composition

(1) Emirati: 49
(2) 79 nationalities
(3) British: 10%
(4) English as an Additional Language (EAL): 25%
(5) Gifted and Talented (G&T): 20%
(6) Special Educational Needs and Disabilities(SEND): 25%
(7) Indian: 23%


Mixed, co-educational

School canteen



GEMS Education

Admissions Telephone

+971 (0) 4 343 3266

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



• BSO Outstanding School (its highest rating)
• Genuinely inclusive schooling
• Commitment to the individual child
• Outstanding new school Principal
• Outstanding child progress
• The mix of facilities
• International
• GEMS reputation and cache


• None

Our Rating
User Rating
Rate Here
Arts & Drama
SEND Provision
Scl Community
Scl Facilities

• A very impressive, inclusive, happy school that delivers, academically and whole child, right across the board. Highly Recommended.

Our Rating
User Rating
You have rated this
Is this school on your shortlist?
Top of shortlist
In my Top 5
A possibility
No way
About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of and UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at]

Leave a Reply