GEMS Metropole School, Motor City – The Review
GEMS Metropole School – Exclusive SchoolsCompared.com March 2018 Visit and KHDA inspection results 2017-18
“GEMS Metropole School Dubai boasts a technology-rich, safe and enthusiastic learning environment in a media-rich location.
Our modern design offers stimulating, flexible, open-plan learning environments that lend themselves to creativity, innovation, and collaboration.
Digital media and science laboratories, specialist music and art rooms – and a variety of fully equipped sports facilities, cater to the holistic educational experience of our students.”
Anthony Cashin. Principal and CEO, GEMS Metropole School Dubai
A school launched with more than 1000 pupils on opening – some feat for a new school, GEMS Metropole provides a (very) high value/low-mid fee alternative for parents seeking a GEMS education without the Premium Plus fees (and (almost none) of the “shiny” facilities) of its more expensive sisters. GEMS Metropole School Dubai delivers a 4,200 capacity role on full-phased all-through launch to boys and girls between 4 years and 18 years. Offering a pure English National Curriculum education from EYFS, through IGCSE and A Level, GEMS Metropole School Dubai is based on the Honsho Road at the back of Motor City’s Uptown area. Overlooking Studio City to the rear, GEMS Metropole is next to the Green Community with a catchment stretching from Arabian Ranches to both of the Jumeirah Village clusters.
Student numbers have increased steadily and now stand at some 3,050 students. The FS role stands at 598 children with classes capped at 25 students across 24 classes. Primary has 1692 children with an average class size of 30 students and 60 overall classes operating between Year 1 and Year 6. The Secondary phase role now numbers 760 students, again with classes of 30 children, but with 27 classes.
Currently in phased opening to all-through provision, Gems Metropole School currently offers a British education, built on the English National Curriculum, to Year 10. Provision targets (I)GCSE O’ Level, AS and, from September 2018, GCSE A Level, underwritten by Cambridge University. We have written to the school to provide us with information on subject depth and breadth of choices at both 14 years and 16 years (including BTEC) and will update our review when we have received these. GEMs has forgone the International Baccalaureate route – and that makes sense commercially. IB schools require small classrooms, a wider range of post-16 subject provision, and more individual attention which would be more difficult to provide at this price point. GEMS has made the Metropole model stack up commercially with larger class sizes than the best schools in this segment.
Facilities and resources
Facilities at GEMS Metropole School Dubai include impressive integration of ICT across all learning and teaching facilities and spaces; multiple libraries; two swimming pools (25M, six lane and learner); digital media suites, science laboratories, cafeteria, music and art rooms.
Purpose built with a design focused on managing a high standard of education in a large school, facilities are good, but without the bells and whistles of Dubai’s new elite schools including its GEMS stablemates. This said, by international standards, GEMS Metropole facilities, if not its class sizes, are better than anything you would find in, for example, the premier league of UK state provision. Facilities are good and of high quality. They are just not 7-star Dubai. The inclusion of a swimming pool, for example, is a good example of how GEMS differentiates Metropole from its gems Founders’ school alternative, also operating within the value-mid tier fee British schools segment. Our review of GEMS Founders can be found here. Founders’ fees are lower, running between AED 22,000 at FS phases to AED 33,000 in Year 13. Parents should also note for completion that the new GEMS Vertus school, set to launch in September 2018, is modeled on the GEMS Metropole formula. Our review of GEMS Vertus can be found here. GEMS Vertus fees will be higher, running between AED 40,000 and AED 50,000.
Gems Metropole has changed substantially since our first visit in 2016 with all sections of the school now complete. The car park now boasts a 2 story area for staff and visitors considerably improving access – something important to parents. On our visit, all areas of the school too were being used – this sounds a strange comment, but in one premium school we recently visited we found a number of supposedly stand-out school facilities, in reality, gathering dust and seemingly there just to look “shiny” in the marketing literature. This is resolutely not the case at GEMS Metropole with children visibly making the most of the school’s facilities. Interestingly, as a side note, the surrounding areas have changed too with a new apartment complex being completed as well as an extension to the local villa housing of Green Community Motor City “Casa Flore”. As a result the school carries itself much better as a genuinely hub school for the Motor City community.
The Library areas are distinct, and whilst colourful and attractive, we found the the FS Library relatively limited in its resourcing of books and educational materials compared to a number of other schools we have visited. The Secondary library occupies a larger space and has been newly created on the ground floor in a light corner of the building. Whilst it is practically structured, we also felt that it lacks imagination compared with the best libraries we have visited. Positively, we noted the availability of a better range of Arabic books than in equivalent schools and we understand that there is a further Arabic section at Primary phase. The area of the Secondary library is to be divided to accommodate 3D Printers and this may well breathe life into an area that we feel does not currently inspire reading quite as much as it could do. In the best schools we have visited, the library has become an inspirational hub for inspiring reading and a love of books, showcasing children’s imagination, reading related events and quiet areas for study. We do think GEMS Metropole could do much more here with the space available to both libraries .
There are a number of green spaces around the school including a Peace Garden; a strip of land at the end of the Sports Field which the children can use at break times on rotation. In another area there was a growing space where each child is enabled to grow plants, and this extends to a small area dedicated for children at FS phases. Overall, and positively, this is a very different school to the “concrete jungle” we experienced on our first visit, although we do think that more could be done to invest in the school setting.
GEMS Metropoe houses a Small Steps Inclusion Centre for provsion of specialist ABA programmes for young children with Autism and related developmental disorders. The unit has expertise in Autism Spectrum Disorder; Asperger’s Syndrome; Behavioural Disorder; ADD/ ADHD; Developmental Delays; and Speech & Language Delays and provides a combination of educational approaches to help children including Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), Speech and Language Therapy (SALT) and Occupational Therapies (OT). For the children under its care, provision is outstanding and the centre stands as a stand-out, hugely impressive, feature of the school.
First Steps has flourished and now boasts 10 full time students aged between 3-7 years of age,.One student has already been fully integrated into the main school, with another 2-3 likely to return fully to mainstream education by September.
The Inclusion Centre carries significant extra costs for parents because it has been established ground-up to deliver the best facility of its kind in the UAE and staffing is 1:1. Currently no further places are available at the unit and there is a waiting list.
EAL provision now extends to 11 staff beyond the core Inclusion team of 6 faculty.
We noted on our visit that the corridor for EAL and Inclusion also house Arabic teaching rooms. We have seen this sort of combination of SEND and Arabic in other schools. It gives out an uncomfortable message, albeit unintentionally, and we were pleased to learn that Arabic subject provision at GEMS Metropole will be effectively integrated from 2019 to remove any suggestion of an arbitrary separation and isolation of Arabic subject teaching and staff from the rest of school.
Anthony Cashin took over from Ian Jones in 2016 as Principal and CEO of GEMS Metropole School Dubai. A direct graduate in Education from the Australian Catholic university, Mr Cashin took his Masters in Education in 1988 and an MBA from CQ University in 1994. Mr Cashin brings with him three decade’s experience in education from positions in Australia, Japan, Thailand, Oman and latterly, from five years leadership, as the Foundation Director, of the International Baccalaureate curriculum Ajman Academy.
Perhaps the most telling comment in the 2017-18 inspection is the verdict that GEMS Metropole leadership is being held back by the “limited support they have received from the governing board.” The KHDA are unambiguously placing blame with GEMS Metropole’s governance, not the school. There is a sense that the school will achieve its vision despite its governance, not because of it. GEMS Metropole clearly has the vision and ambition in place to deliver. Facilities and resources are good too. The sheer size of the school should be seeing considerable investment that on our visit, however, was not evident on the scale we would have expected. Examples are above of weaknesses in both library provision and the location for the Sixth Form but there are others. We are also not at all convinced by current levels of school transparency and information – the level of information provided lags behind the best GEMS schools. In almost every area, for example, of the school’s web site very limited and generic information is provided. For detail, parents are advised to contact the school. A web site, at a minimum should contain the information parents need to have to begin making decisions on a school – but it should also reflect the character of a school, what makes it special – and be a place to celebrate the achievements of children. As it stands, parents would understand almost nothing about GEMS Metropole and what its stands for from its on-line presence. Future employers and universities looking to gauge the school will be equally uninspired and unenlightened. Despite this GEMS Metropole has secured exceptionally good relationships with its parents and wider community.
It is worth quoting the first recommendation of the KHDA in the steps that must be taken for the school to succeed: “[Metropole must (e)] ensure the governing board uses its extensive network, experience, expertise and resources, to provide all of the necessary support to enable school leaders to effectively carry out their work.” Expressed differently, the KHDA found a school that was not at the time of its inspection being resourced effectively by its governing board to educate its children to the standards expected of all schools. Positively, with the appointment of Mr Cashin, the KHDA recognise that this key critique is being responded to – and GEMS Metropole does have the capacity to improve significantly.
Of a considerable number of weaknesses identified by the KHDA we cannot help but wonder whether the experiment of increasing class sizes as a lever to reduce overall fees, is an experiment that has simply not worked given the inclusive role. The class size ratio, we think, may well need to be re-thought. It is certain that the speed to which GEMS Metropole has launched to full capacity for each phase has resulted in challenges that will not have helped and will have played a role in the school falling short of the Good school rating expected by the KHDA of all schools operating in Dubai. These growth pressures will ease in the years to come as the school is given time to bed in that scale and all-through provision. The issue of class-sizes would need a strategic intervention by GEMS.
Gems Metropole, like Gems Founders, Gems Firstpoint and Gems Wellington Al Khail, opens Sixth Form provision in 2018-19. GEMS Metropole has an existing Yr 11 cohort of 85. The promise we understand is of both A Level and BTEC but as above we are awaiting clarification on subject breadth. Our view is that BTEC should be provided as a matter of course in all inclusive British schools and we are pleased to see Metropole’s commitment in this area to deliver BTEC from ‘Day One.’ It is worth noting that GEMS Founders aims to deliver BTEC, but at a later date.
The area identified for the GEMS Metropole Sixth Form is on the 3rd floor of the Secondary block. At the moment this area is configured as rooms as individual training rooms and does not seem appropriate. Again, in the best schools we have seen significant investment in inspirational Sixth Form provision with clearly identified spaces designed around the needs of older children. It is early days, but we hope that GEMS Metropole is able to completely restructure this area to ensure that Sixth Formers have a functional and inspirational place that is identifiably their own home at Metropole. It is perhaps telling that GEMS Metropole has yet (February 2018) to make available an on-line Sixth Form prospectus for parents.
Our view is that a clearly defined, independent and high quality Sixth Form is not an optional add-in for British schools – and certainty those able to successfully meet the needs of their students. Positively, GEMS Metropole still has the time to get this right and make the necessary investment.
Bottom Line? The SchoolsCompared.com 2018 verdict
It is still far too early to make an overall judgment or unqualified recommendation of GEMS Metropole. We know that GEMS will not have been happy with the school’s first KHDA inspection – and. from our visit, it is clear that Mr Cashin is genuinely committed to the education of the children under his care, ambitious in the potential he wants to see from his school – and positive that the school will achieve. School leadership is important and we found in Mr Cashin an inspirational and convincing Principal and CEO.
For a large school with an eventual capacity of over 4000 students, Metropole has warmth in abundance, driven. Community engagement and the partnership with parents is a strength of the school.
There are significant trade-offs, however, including much larger class sizes than Tier 1 schools (Up to 25 at FS1 and 2, and 30 in Year 1 – 13).
There is no doubt that for some parents class sizes will be the defining reason for dismissing GEMS Metropole as a prospective option for their children. It may well be that this is a compromise too far. In respect of class sizes, as WhichSchoolAdvisor.com notes, GEMS Metropole is positioned in UK state, not public, school territory – unusual for a Dubai British school. As an inclusive school, class sizes do matter. The KHDA identify significant issues with learning across all phases and it may well be that this level of staffing simply proves unsustainable in the long term. Time will tell – but class sizes cannot be making teaching any easier given the demands of the impressively inclusive role.
Specialist inclusion provision through Small Steps is outstanding – and has now been extended to Metropole’s sister School, Founders.
So where does this leave us?
GEMS Metropole School Dubai remains resolutely not a bells and whistles school, nowhere near, and in many ways GEMS is trialling a new hybrid school model able to offer strong academics to parents who not only baulk at high fees, but simple cannot afford them.
Given that all GEMS schools to date have significantly exceeded all national and international benchmarks in student outcomes there is no reason, yet, to believe Metrople will be any different. Bells and whistles do not make a school in the same way that high quality teachers, leadership – and the inspired children and learning that follows from these – undoubtedly do. As of 2017 -18, however, those benchmarks in expected child attainement and progress have not been met and the promise of outstanding educational provision by GEMS is not being met. Weak areas of provision within an overall Acceptable overall grading, even allowing for this being a first inspection, are an uncomfortable place for the school to be.
On the basis of driven, inspired leadership, the GEMS reputation for excellence, genuine warmth of the school – and a fee structure offering exceptional value for money, whichschooladvisor reported, in 2016-17, GEMS Metropole as a school with all the promise of a being a very high performing school offering stellar ROI. That promise is clearly still there – but it is not being delivered on, yet, to the degree, or speed, to which GEMS had anticipated it would be – and the children have every right to expect.
We think GEMS Metropole has everything in place to be at least a Very Good school. But to do that we think there may well need to be serious and significant changes to the fundamental economic and investment model. Class sizes, school transparency, better integration of Arabic subjects, delivery of a powerful Sixth Form offer and investment across the board – these are all areas that need change – and that will need School Governors to considerably up their game and support. The potential – and ambition, is impressive – but the time has come to deliver.
Acceptable with "Weak", "Good" and "Very Good" features
(1) This is the school's first inspection
YEAR 1: 39,936
YEAR 2: 39,936
YEAR 3: 39,936
YEAR 4: 39,936
YEAR 5: 39,936
YEAR 6: 39,936
YEAR 7: 45,056
YEAR 8: 45,056
YEAR 9: 45,056
YEAR 10: 45,056
YEAR 11: 45,056
YEAR 12: 45,056
YEAR 13: 45,056 - phased launch 2019
National Curriculum of England
1:30 Year 1 - Year 13
Motor City, Dubai
Arabic (largest nationality)
(1) International role
(2) Emirati: 29 students
(3) SEND: 89 students
+971 4 550 7200
NA - phased launch 2018-2020
NA - phased launch 2018-2020
NA - phased launch 2018-2020
NA - phased launch 2018-2020
NA - phased launch 2018-2020
• GEMS backing
• Academically focused British education with relatively low fees
• Outward focus
• Experienced leadership
• Outstanding, class best Small Steps Centre for Inclusion - but at a price
• Large class sizes for a GEMS school targeting academic excellence
• Relatively basic finishing leaves external spaces lacking warmth
• Very large school with a 4000 plus capacity role on full phased launch
• The school will be disappointed with its first inspection results - although parents should note that this is a first inspection and the school has launched to capacity at exceptional speed
• Relatively high teacher turnover running at 37% - even to allow for its being a new school undergoing phased launch to all-through provision
• Very poor school transparency
• A school operating as of 2018 without the support of its governing body.
• Very limited signs of school investment