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LOOK: GEMS FirstPoint School Goes Festival of Schools in photos
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LOOK: GEMS FirstPoint School Goes Festival of Schools in photos

by Tabitha BardaNovember 14, 2021

GEMS FirstPoint School joined the Festival of Schools (FOS) on 13 November 2021 in another fantastic  day out for families.
Hundreds of families gathered at the sprawling campus in The Villa area of Dubai to experience everything the popular all-through school has to offer.

Playing host to a mixture of current students as well as prospective pupils and families from the community, more than 80 of the school’s staff members willingly volunteered their time to facilitate almost 50 different fun activities for both children and adults.

Photographs of the Festival of Schools held at GEMS FirstPoint school in Dubai. Here children hug one of the walk-around characters.

Everyone was keen to showcase the school’s vibrant community spirit, said Principal / CEO of GEMS FirstPoint, Matthew Tompkins: “We’re a family,” said Tompkins, “This is what we believe in. Days like today: celebrating together, working together, for the best interests of the children.”

Principal / CEO of GEMS FirstPoint School Matthew Tompkins with Eimear McKenna Singh, Business Development Director for, which helped to arrange the event

Food, fun and frolics

There was a buoyant buzz in the forecourt area of GEMS FirstPoint, as families chatted, children played and high-fived the wandering animal mascots, and everyone chowed down on delicious pizza, or treated themselves to an ice cream from the ice cream truck.

The wandering animal mascots represented each of the School’s houses and kept this entertaining for the little ones


On entering the reception area, visitors were spoilt for choice by the number of stalls on offer from industry partners, which included stands from Siemens and the Financial Times, as well as a particularly popular chocolate-tasting activity!

House mascots muse over one the GEMS FirstPoint’s industry partner’s stalls

Beyond the reception, the activities branched off into all of the different departments of the school, and ranged from glittery and messy arts and crafts fun, to seed planting, t-shirt designing, and outdoor play for younger ones, to fascinating solar energy experiments and psychology quizzes for older kids and adults.

T shirt designing was one of the popular activities on offer

Star quality students

From the moment you entered the outdoor area of the festival, the air rang with uplifting music – all of which was created by GEMS FirstPoint School pupils. From glorious guitar solos to sweet piano performances and some spectacular singing, the students were truly shining and enjoying their time in the limelight.

Students were the stars of this FOS event

In the drama department, a devising workshop saw students improvising a piece of theatre based around the theme of sustainability. This turned out to be an impressive and gripping performance imagining a dystopian future, in which oxygen is for sale and face masks are vital to protect against poisonous air.

Two students playing the part of politicians gave particularly compelling depictions of the challenges facing world leaders in this imagined world. The performance highlighted not only all the students’ acting abilities, but also their keen awareness of important, real-world issues.

Photograph of a child at GEMS FirstPoint School in Dubai at the Festival of schools learning about electricity.

A circuit-building activity using solar energy was another popular activity

All hands on deck

While some students were busy showcasing the school’s performing arts offering, others were manning many of the activity tables, encouraging visitors to interact with whatever experiment, activity or challenge they were offering.

Children were absorbed in the many arts and crafts activities on offer

Rajan Sehmi, a Year 13 student, was in charge of the Financial Times stall, where he spoke to families about his school-organised virtual internship with the newspaper and what it taught him.

Rajan Sehmi, a Year 13 student, talked to attendees about his internship with the FT

“I was talking to people about how big companies are interacting with the youth of today,” he said. “Overall it was a really successful day.”

Two year 12 students talked passionately about their Psychology course

Meanwhile two year 12 students – Rama and Maria – talked to us about the station they were hosting as representatives of the Psychology department. “It was about phobias,” said Rama. “Participants were blindfolded and then instructed to touch a range of objects in different boxes. They then had to guess what the phobia was.” This prompted a full range of reactions, said Mariam: “Some were really scared, some were really into it. It was nice to see the range of emotions people felt.”

Children were encouraged to fill in their Festival of Schools passport at every activity station in return for a reward

The girls talked passionately about the Psychology A-level course and how grateful they are that GEMS FirstPoint School is one of the schools in Dubai that offers it. Both girls added that they intend to do Psychology for higher education.

Younger children loved playing in the school’s spacious outdoor area

Outdoor learning

One of the biggest highlights of the event for visiting parent Cliff Poulton – who attended the event with his wife, three-year old son and 15-month-old daughter – was the amazing facilities the school has for outdoor learning.

Photograph of a parent at the Festival of Schools held at GEMS FirstPoint School

Cliff Poulton visited the festival with his three-year-old son Alexander

“It’s great to see the facilities the school has to offer,” said Cliff. “Especially a school like this, which has something like a Forest School environment, where the classrooms back on to outdoor learning areas. It’s so important for little children to be able to learn by doing and learn by playing. That’s what it’s all about.”

Cliff and his family enjoying the outdoor areas

The Desert School

Many parents agreed with Cliff in being impressed by the Desert School room; a beautiful space filled with colour, texture and natural materials that is home to real-life terrapins and a snake, among other desert-dwelling creatures.

Two terrapins are some of the animal residents in GEMS FirstPoint’s Desert School room

The UAE’s answer to Scandinavian-born Forest Schooling, it backs on to a spacious outdoor area that has stations dedicated to sand, wood, mud kitchens and other materials, where children can play with the natural textures of the country they call home in a hands-on way.

“Children get to come and explore new and exciting parts of their curriculum in a way that’s not taught within the classroom,” said James Sherriff, Year Leader at GEMS FirstPoint  School, who was manning the Desert Room activities at the Festival of Schools. “They learn about the life cycle of animals linked to the animals that we have living in the room. It’s also a place where they get to get messy and explore the outdoor areas.”

Primary school teacher and Year Leader James Sherriff

The Desert School room featured a ‘Trash to Treasure’ activity, explained Sherriff: “The children receive a recycled plastic bag that could have been found in the ocean or out in the desert, and they turn it into something new, beautiful and purposeful that they’re able to use again and again.”

The Bamboo playground was another very popular area

The Official SchoolsCompared Video


Fun with a purpose

Designed around the Festival of Schools theme “Our Planet, Our Future”, every practical activity on offer at GEMS FirstPoint’s event was curated to be instructive and entertaining, but also purposeful, says Year 5 Leader Emily Gallone.

Year 5 Leader Emily Gallone

She says she was passionate that the activations should not involve too much plastic, which is where the idea for the seed planting in pots made from sustainable and biodegradable materials came from.

Children loved decorating their biodegradable plant pots

This was a particularly popular activity, where children beautifully decorated plant pots with coloured felt tip pens, before filling them with soil and planting radishes, cucumber or flower seeds. They could then take their creations home with them.

Natural materials and sustainability were at the heart of the FOS event

“Amazing” way to experience a school’s values

Visiting the GEMS FirstPoint’s Festival of Schools event was the perfect way to experience and understand the school’s values, said visiting parent Kristina, who came with her niece and nephew and her two kids.

Kristina visited the event with her niece and nephew and two children

Having also experienced the previous Festival of School’s (FOS) event at Safa British School, Kristina was impressed once again by the FOS offering at GEMS FirstPoint, and said she particularly loved the fact that there were activities suitable for every age range, so that all of the children she brought were able to enjoy themselves.

Festival of Schools GEMS FIRSTPOINT

Kristina loved that there were activities for children of all ages to get enthused about

It was great to see what the school can offer, and the values of the school,” she said. “And you get to see your children experiencing and enjoying the school environment in the same way as they might if they were actually students at the school. I think that is amazing.”

Visiting the Festival of Schools was the perfect way to get a sense of GEMS FirstPoint’s values as a school

Don’t miss the next Festival of Schools

There are two more amazing Festival of Schools events running on weekends throughout this month. The next one is at Arcadia School:

The Festival of Schools, Saturday 20th November, 9am-1pm, Arcadia School


More Information

Read our independent review for parents of GEMS Firstpoint School in Dubai here. 

Visit the official GEMS FirstPoint web site. 

© 2021. All rights reserved.

About The Author
Tabitha Barda
Tabitha Barda is the Senior Editor of Oxbridge educated and an award winning journalist in the UAE for more than a decade, Tabitha is one of the region's shining lights in all that is education in the emirates. A mum herself, she is passionate about helping parents - and finding the stories in education that deserve telling. She is responsible for's The School's Report - the global weekly round up of what matters in education for parents which is published every Thursday, reviewing schools across the UAE - and features on issues that really matter.

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