GEMS Metropole School, Motor City – The 2020 Review
GEMS Metropole School – SchoolsCompared.com Visit, KHDA inspection results 2017-20
“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.
As a leader, I make decisions always guided by the best interests the children. This approach has always been respected by colleagues, parents and the community. Children are always, unequivocally, placed first and at the centre of every decision made in my school. ”
Nav Iqbal. Principal and CEO. GEMS Metropole School, Dubai.
GEMS Metropole launched with more than 1000 pupils – some feat for a new school. With Metropole, GEMS fired the imagination of parents with the combination of its serious commitment to delivering a very high quality UK curriculum (with commitment to subject breadth to meet the needs of the broadest range of children) and premium facilities (particularly in its swimming pool) at a price point that undercut GEMS fees across its other British schools by some margin. On the surface, the value proposition could not unreasonably be described as extraordinary. Little wonder then that parents signed up en masse.
GEMS Metropole today still provides a (very) high value/low-mid fee alternative for parents seeking a GEMS education without the Premium Plus fees. It sets itself apart from other GEMS schools at this approximate price point (GEMS Founders is its obvious, in terms of price competition, competitor within GEMS) with the offer of the swimming pool, an expensive facility that generally differentiates premium from mid-tier schools, but also in its better teacher ratio, class size caps and provision of Teaching Assistants to Year 6. GEMS is aware the it is the swimming pool, at this price point, that provides the Hollywood glitter – but it is at pains to point out that it is in its investment in teachers that the school differentiates itself where it matters most academically. More on class sizes and teacher ratios below. Worth noting too that ninety plus percent of all teaching faculty at GEMS Metropole are British.
GEMS Metropole School Dubai is based on a 6.5 acre site 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.
GEMS Metropole is set to be a large school with a 4,200 capacity role on full-phased all-through launch – and this in part explains how GEMS has been able to juggle the low fees with this (high quality) level of facility and curriculum investment. Today its founding role has grown to around 2750 students (2020). Offering a pure English National Curriculum education from EYFS, through IGCSE and A Level, class sizes are capped at 28 children in Year 1 – 13 (a reduction of 2 students following significant new investment by GEMS) with a teacher:students ration of 1:15 (again an improvement and lowering of the ratio by one child). To put this in context, this significantly improves on GEMS Founders at 1:18 (which has fees running between AED 22,455 and AED 33,683) but falls significantly below that of GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail at 1:10 (which has fees running between AED 57,635 and AED 101,515). GEMS Metropole fees fall between AED 34,491 and AED 45,989. The teacher: student ratio here gives a very clear benchmark for parents in understanding price points. Higher fees invariably means more teachers per child.
Provision targets (I)GCSE O’ Level, AS and GCSE A Level, underwritten by Cambridge University. GEMs has forgone the International Baccalaureate route – and that makes sense commercially. IB schools require small classrooms 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 plus and of high quality.
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 area has blossomed and GEMS Metropole carries itself much better as a genuinely hub school for the now established Motor City community.
Full facilities include:
- ‘Farm Fresh’ Learning space (one of a number of cross-curricular curriculum spaces at the school). This delivers a “farm” within the school in which children can grow vegetables and keep rabbits, chickens and ducks. The school’s local farmer manages the upkeep of the facility and students enjoy real, practical learning.
- Radio and Performance Studio (Secondary School).This enables students to produce radio and podcast shows as part of the enriched curriculum.
- Calisthenics work space
- Kitchen Lab
- Inclusion Hub
- Careers Hub
- Student Café
- Sixth form leisure space
- School Farm
- Arabic Library
- IELTS Testing Centre
- Internet Wi-Fi throughout school buildings
- iMac Computer Suites & Portable Windows Computer Suite
- Foundation Stage, Primary & Secondary Libraries
- 6 Secondary Science Labs
- Primary Discovery Lab
- Innovation Rooms
- Music Rooms
- Art Rooms
- Performing Arts Rooms
- Outdoor playground equipment in both FS & KS1
- Peace Garden
- 6th Form Common Room & Study Room
- Parent Café
- Student Canteen
- Inclusion Centre for Students of Determination
- Student Gardens
- Foundation Stage PE Hall
- 2 x Multi-purpose Sports Hall
- Large multi-purpose astro turf with markings for football pitch, athletics track, rounders pitch
- Stunning Swimming Pool facilities – main pool (25m x 13m) & trainer pool (13m x 0.7m), unmatched by any other school at this price point
- 2 x multi-use games areas with markings for tennis, basketball & netball courts
- Dance Studio
- Fitness Studio
GEMS Metropole houses a Small Steps Inclusion Centre for provision 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 students, as a general rule, quickly and fully integrate back into the main school. 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. On our last visit no further places were available at the unit and there was a waiting list given its understandable draw for parents.
On our earlier visits to the school we found the corridor for EAL and Inclusion also housing Arabic teaching rooms. We have seen this sort of combination of SEND and Arabic in other schools. We believe that this gives out an uncomfortable message, albeit unintentionally, and we are pleased today that today at GEMS Metropole Arabic subject provision is fully and effectively integrated in school life, this removing any suggestion of an arbitrary separation and isolation of Arabic subject teaching and staff from the rest of school.
Inclusion is ranked Very Good by the KHDA and it is telling that Metropole has asked us, specifically, to consider reflecting its deep commitment to students of determination in our review. Many schools ask us not to dwell on the quality of their provision for students of determination because they fear an influx of applications and an inability to provide the (expensive) levels of teaching support they require. Care and support for students of determination within GEMS Metropole is a clear strength across SEND (including Gifted and Talented children), English as an Additional Language (GEMS Metropole has arguably forged its strength in languages provsion on the foundations of its EAL expertise) and counselling. GEMS Metropole has partnered with Neuropedia (Neuroscience Center of Child Psychology & Neurology Specialists), to establish a specialised Inclusion Hub given prominence at at the front of the school – not hidden away as we find in a number of other schools. and is easily accessible for anyone with mobility issues. The visibility of the investment in inclusion is further evidenced by a plethora of Inclusion Classrooms strategically placed around the school to simplify access for students at every phase. The hub provides access to Neuropedia Speech Therapists, Occupational Therapists and ABA Therapy support teams. There is a specialised equipped Sensory Room that leads out to an outdoor area to enhance sensory needs based on each student’s individual needs. It is worth noting that additional costs are inevitably involved for this level of embedded support – but for families with children of determination the facility is offers hope and a lifeline where many other schools, usually because of the costs of investment involved in setting up such facilities, fall short. ASDAN classes support the older cohort of students at Secondary phase.
Nav Iqbal is a psychology and business graduate of Bradford University. He studied for his PGCE at Hull, his M.Ed. in Educational Leadership at the University of Nottingham and the National Professional Qualification in Executive Leadership (NPQEL) at Wolverhampton. He brings both experience in business and industry, and education, to GEMS Metropole. Mr Iqbal’s followed two years teaching Psychology and various business roles in the UK with a one year placement in Qatar as Assistant Head. After returning to the UK for a year to run various business and place marketing projects in Bradford, Mr Iqbal returned to Qatar where he took on the role, for five years, as the Founding Principal of the Phoenix Private School. This was followed by a move to Dubai where he invested four years as Founding Principal of the KHDA rated “Good School with Very Good and Outstanding Features” International School of Creative Science. His leadership was rated by the KHDA as very effective and inspirational. At the school he earned a reputation for securing child progress and successful outcomes in a complex school noted for high demands on SEND, inclusion and a strongly Emirati and broader Arabic nationality role. Mr Iqbal is a proud father of four boys, the eldest of which is 19 years old and the youngest two years old.
The Views of Students at GEMS Metropole
The Views of parents at GEMS Metropole School
The views of Sixth Formers at GEMS Metropole.
GEMS Metropole University Destinations for Graduating Students and the Views of Alumni
University destinations include:
- Middlesex University
- Amity University Dubai
- University of Wollongong
- Tintern Grammar
- Willem de Kooning Academy
- Canadore College
- University of Birmingham Dubai
- Heriot-Watt Dubai
- American University of Sharjah
- Xavier’s College, Jaipur
- Curtin University
- SAE Dubai
KHDA Inspection 2020
GEMS Metropole School is rated Acceptable with Good, Very Good and Outstanding Features. Its Arabic provision is rated with significant weaknesses – and it is this area of school provision that results in the school falling short of an good school rating. GEMS Metropole, in reality, is a Good School – but given its significant Arabic role the KHDA simply cannot, in good faith, give the school the headline rating it otherwise deserves until teaching and provision for Arabic subjects is brought up to standard. In no small part, Mr Iqbal’s expertise in this area was a key draw for GEMS. GEMS Metropole’s rating does not reflect its many strengths – and the aim is to get this addresses quickly and powerfully. We do question, given the international role of the school and its significant Arabic role, whether class sizes and teacher-student ratios will need to be improved. In our view, increasing the number of teachers per student would be the obvious step to improving the progress and attainment of students across the school. The issue of class-sizes would need an ongoing strategic intervention by GEMS – and this has started. Time will tell …
Strengths of the school are many:
- “Very positive” personal development of children at all phases
- Teaching and assessment in all subjects across the school, with the exception of Arabic subjects, is good or better.
- Care and support of children is very good
- The school is exceptionally and impressively inclusive
- Facilities are of a very good standard and are subject to ongoing investment
- Teachers are invested in – and that investment is now ongoing.
- Very positive, warm and successful partnerships with parents
Further investment is needed in two key areas:
- Arabic subjects (as discussed above); and,
- Broadening the range of subjects available to students in the Sixth Form. We would like to see significantly increased choice in BTEC, particularly given the school’s inclusive role, in Technology related subjects. This is an area in which GEMS, across its schools, has considerable expertise. A Level choice we view as a strength of the school, particularly in the provision of outlier subjects like Psychology (which is one of the rare bridging subjects linking the Arts and Sciences) and Sociology. These subjects are rarely, if ever, offered in value schools which often limited subject choice to keep fees low – but in the process force many children to study subjects in which they have little interest or passion. This said, the current offer of Level 3 BTEC in Sport, Business and Performing Arts is impressive in its own right – and set in the context of a comparison with other schools, sees the school performing strongly.
Gems Metropole, like Gems Founders, Gems Firstpoint and Gems Wellington Al Khail, opened Sixth Form provision in 2018-19. Our view is that BTEC should be provided as a matter of course in all inclusive British schools and we were pleased to see Metropole’s commitment in this area to deliver BTEC from ‘Day One.’ It is worth noting that GEMS Founders aimed to deliver BTEC, but at a later date. We just need to see more BTEC choice added to its already strong offering given its inclusive role – and particularly in technology related subjects(see above).
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 has consistently invested in Sixth Form provision since its opening – and this is ongoing. We do understand the school’s reluctance to publish its examination results in its early years, but the time is coming when the school will need to be more transparent.
Taken as a whole, we rate the Sixth Form offer at GEMS Metropole as only just short of outstanding – detail follows:
A Level Choices
Examination Results to Date – in Full
|Summer 2018||Media Studies||GCSE||AQA||24||79%|
|Summer 2018||Combined Science||IGCSE||OIAQA||62||56%|
|Summer 2018||Arabic (First Language)||IGCSE||Edexcel||14||57%|
|Summer 2018||Art & Design: Fine Art||GCSE||Edexcel||20||75%|
|Summer 2018||Computer Science||GCSE||Edexcel||13||92%|
|Summer 2018||English as a Second Language||IGCSE||Edexcel||19||42%|
|Summer 2018||English Language||IGCSE||Edexcel||69||99%|
|Summer 2018||English Literature||IGCSE||Edexcel||46||93%|
|Summer 2018||Physical Education||GCSE||Edexcel||17||59%|
|Summer 2019||Arabic (First Language)||IGCSE||Edexcel||21||52%|
|Summer 2019||Art & Design: Fine Art||GCSE||Edexcel||18||94%|
|Summer 2019||Art & Design: Graphic||GCSE||Edexcel||15||94%|
|Summer 2019||Art & Design: Photography||GCSE||Edexcel||14||86%|
|Summer 2019||Art & Design: Textiles||GCSE||Edexcel||10||90%|
|Summer 2019||Computer Science||GCSE||Edexcel||24||54%|
|Summer 2019||Islamic Studies||IGCSE||Edexcel||1||100%|
|Summer 2019||Physical Education||GCSE||Edexcel||21||48%|
|Summer 2019||Media Studies||GCSE||AQA||33||70%|
|Summer 2019||Combined Science||IGCSE||OIAQA||82||39%|
|Summer 2019||English Language||IGCSE||OIAQA||117||92%|
|Summer 2019||English Literature||IGCSE||OIAQA||18||61%|
Bottom Line? The SchoolsCompared.com 2020 verdict
GEMS Metropole is at a crossroads. Mr Iqbal has the opportunity to secure a very quick win here – and we absolutely expect a Good School rating in 2021. This is a school let down only, in its headline rating, by Arabic Subjects provision.
Mr Iqbal has been supported. from Day One, by significant new investment by GEMS in teachers. And this is expensive given the British curriculum and high quality British, and Arabic, faculty required to join the virtuous circle of what is clearly an outstanding school in the potential making. This has come at a time needed at a time in which all schools are under pressure in the wake of Covid 19 – and GEMS more than most given the sheer scale of its investment in UAE education – to cut costs, rather than invest:
“Class sizes of 28 and 22 have now been fully implemented by GEMS Metropole. GEMS Metropole aims to provide a premium level of education at value. We believe we have struck the right balance between lowering class size, introducing TAs up to year 6 (which is a practice in premium schools), increasing the percentage of UK teachers compared to other mid-market schools (where commonly the investment falls to between 50% – 75% UK teachers) and, finally, offering significantly broader curriculum choice and experiences.”
Hfu Reisenhofer. Senior Manager – Communications. GEMS Education. In conversation with SchoolsCompared.com August 2020.
How has GEMS Metropole secured this investment? Metropole is an important school for GEMS. It started a revolution in education, in its balance of fees and facilities, that changed the face of schooling in the UAE forever. GEMS is determined to get Metropole to meet its undeniable promise, in doing so securing for itself the benchmark for how to deliver outstanding British education to a budget.
GEMS is bucking the curve here. As above, Investment continues apace, just as others schools are retrenching in the face of pressures from Covid 19. And this has not fallen on recruiting more teachers per pupil. In the next academic year an all-new Metropole Language Hub will come on stream. Comprising five training rooms and a large PD hall, the facility will enable GEMS Metropole to offer more classical and modern languages for students, as well as an evening language centre for adults. Various languages (TBC) will be offered, as well as English as a Second Language support, IELTS assessment and support offered to the Metropole community and public. This hub requires a significant investment – and that investment is now approved with planning works underway.
For a large school with an eventual capacity of over 4000 students, GEMS Metropole has warmth in abundance, driven students, a level of community engagement often aspired too but rarely met – and a partnership with parents that is an absolute strength of the school.
So where does that leave us? GEMS has recognised that large class sizes do not work well with a highly international, inclusive role – particularly where, for many students, English is a second language. The results of this investment – together with that in languages, should have very significant, and swift, knock-on impacts on student progress and attainment.
The pool does seem a luxury at this fee level. But it is not a marketing ploy. From Day One, GEMS was, and is today, committed to delivering a premium school education that can be access by the broadest range of families. Of all the schools in the UAE we can think of, this is arguably the most ambitious in its democratic and aspirational ambitions for children from families with vastly different financial backgrounds. Why should the average family, GEMS asks, be priced out of the premium market and expect less than the children of wealthy families. The stakes could not be higher ….
Bottom line? GEMS Metropole School Dubai may not be a bells and whistles school if set in the context of the most expensive schools in Dubai – but it runs rings around what parents historically have expected from schools at this price point. As the new investment in teaching and languages bed in we have no doubt the knock on impact on student progress and attainment will be significant. This will then be a school delivering a premium education at a broadly mid tier price point in every respect and a certain recipient of Good, if not Very Good, KHDA school status. The latter is certainly, in our view, now in reach.
We think that the choice of Mr Iqbal to lead the school, is an inspired one by GEMS. He brings with him the promise of rare business acumen, cultural breadth of focus and Arabic subjects expertise that the school needs.
On the basis of his driven, inspired leadership, the GEMS reputation for excellence, genuine warmth of the school – and a fee structure offering in our view exceptional value for money, we believe that the promise of a being a very high performing school offering stellar ROI is clearly here and all is to play for.
There is so much here to celebrate. The achievements of many of the students throughout the school are extraordinary. Across the school, the passion for learning is outstanding. Serious and significant changes to the fundamental economic and investment model have been made, and are being made, driven by the needs of children and their families.
There is genuine “wow!” here – and it comes not from the amazing facilities that transcend its relatively humble fee point, impressive as these are, but the extraordinary ambition of a school that clearly lights up the imaginations of its children and its adoring families. More than even this, a school that asks us to celebrate its investment in every child, including each and every child of determination, is one that deserves our respect. Many schools speak of delivering an individualised education for every child – but with GEMS Metropole that actually means something.
©SchoolsCompared.com 2020. All rights reserved.
2020: Acceptable with Good, Very Good and Outstanding Features.
(1) Continuing weakness in Arabic subjects.
Acceptable with Good, Very Good and Outstanding Features.
(1) Continuing weakness in Arabic subjects.
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
National Curriculum of England
AQA, Oxford AQA and EdExcel.
1:28 Year 1 - Year 13
23% (August 2020)
Motor City, Dubai
Arabic (largest nationality)
(1) International role - 100 plus nationalities
(2) Emirati: 34 students
(3) SEND: 283 students
+971 4 550 7200
40% (lowered by the KHDA because of Arabic Subjects weakness)
40% (lowered by the KHDA because of Arabic Subjects weakness)
46.6% (lowered by the KHDA because of Arabic Subjects weakness)
40% (lowered by the KHDA because of Arabic Subjects weakness)
• GEMS backing
• Academically focused British education with an offer well beyond the expectations of its fee structure
• An important, aspirational school that re-wrote the rule book on what parents can expect from schools at this price point
• Fabulous facilities
• Inspired choice of school leadership
• Outstanding, class best, Small Steps Centre for Inclusion - but at a price
• Excellent breadth of subject choice both at A Level and BTEC
• Outstanding community engagement and support from families
• Large class sizes for a GEMS school targeting academic excellence and given its inclusive role
• Very large school with a 4000 plus capacity role on full phased launch
• History of high teacher turnover - something must give here.
• Weaknesses in Arabic Subjects