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GEMS Wellington Primary School, Jumeirah 1 – THE REVIEW
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GEMS Wellington Primary School, Jumeirah 1 – THE REVIEW

by August 12, 2019

Updated August 2019 – GEMS Wellington Primary School – exclusive school visit, KHDA 2019

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, its second highest rating, and 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.

By way of our 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 notable differential highlighted by the KHDA between student attainment and the (“Very Good”) level of progress achieved by its children.

This is a school that 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.



The challenge facing the school, and one that we believe is not insurmountable given current progress, is to further strengthen academic attainment for children.

Parents must, however, bear in mind that this is a genuinely inclusive school and not one that “stacks 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. It is at least arguable that GEMS Wellington Primary has struck a very healthy balance, 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.

Other 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 2016 inspection.

Buildings of GEMS Wellington Primary School

One of the key ways we judge British primaries 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 Arabic 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 Arabic 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 schools, Arabic language acquisition is more limited that would be ideal.

A good example of innovation is evident in the on-line learning resource delivered, in most part, by the children themselves. Whilst in its infancy, we hope this will be further developed, and ideally better designed… On a personal note, whilst my children do not attend GEMS Wellington Primary, I have actually used some of its mathematical “How to” videos with my son, who struggles with Mathematics. It is interesting to see how much better he responds to other children explaining. With enough investment this could be an exceptional resource for future generations of children.


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.”

SchoolsCompared Visits, September 2017, June 2018

Facilities are outstanding including an outdoor AstroTurf football area as well as hard courts and 2 pools. There is a large Auditorium which doubles for sport; 3 Music Rooms; 4 ICT suites; Music Performance rooms and Art Rooms – as well as a (genuinely) well-stocked library. It’s not though a “bells and whistles” school sparkling with modern chrome and artifice – expect a lived in, homely 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. 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.

On our June 2018 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 planned refurbishment plans to take place during the Summer 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?

GEMS Wellington Primary School missed out on consideration for our Best 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. This is a fiercely impressive, values-rich, nurturing inclusive school led by a very strong Principal.

In a recent (June 2017) 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.

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.
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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

Type of school

Private, for-profit

WSA Good School

Under consideration 2017-18

Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

FS1: 42,508
FS2: 53,582
YEAR 1: 53,582
YEAR 2: 53,582
YEAR 3: 53,582
YEAR 4: 53,582
YEAR 5: 53,582
YEAR 6: 53,582
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) Primary only
(2) EYFS


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

FS1 Limited availability (May 2018)

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

17% (2017)
31% (2016)

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



• Genuinely inclusive schooling
• Commitment to the individual child
• Outstanding new school Principal
• Outstanding child progress
• The mix of facilities
• International


• Missing Outstanding school status - attainment needs to ratchet up a notch

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SEND Provision
Scl Community
Scl Facilities

• A very impressive, inclusive, happy school that delivers across the board. 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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