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GEMS Announces Major Investment in BTEC Across Top Schools as A* Alternative to A Levels for Students
BTEC is now being rollowed out across GEMS Education Top Schools
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GEMS Announces Major Investment in BTEC Across Top Schools as A* Alternative to A Levels for Students

by Jon WestleyOctober 26, 2020

Background: GEMS Announces Major Investment in BTEC Across Top Schools as A* Alternative to A Levels

In a move that will be welcomed by students and educators across the UAE, GEMS has announced major new investment in the BTEC technical pathway qualification across a number of its top schools.

Many have argued that schools in the UAE had fallen behind their British school equivalents at home, and even IB schools offering the BTEC founded International Baccalaureate Career-related programme, by not offering the world’s recognised technical stream qualification for children.

Today, best practice in British education is to offer children a choice of BTEC (Technical) or A’ level (Academic) qualifications (or a blending of both pathways) at Sixth Form.

Recognition of BTEC as a major qualification followed the decision by UCAS (Great Britain’s Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) and top tier universities to treat A Level, BTEC and IB qualifications equivalently. Today, BTECs hold a UCAS tariff for acceptance into universities that can be mapped directly onto results at A Level and IB .

A Level 3 Distinction* BTEC, for example, is the same as an A* at A level and a Higher Level 7 in IB – all three qualification grades are worth 56 points.

A direct comparison follows:



BTEC Grade UCAS Tariff Points
 D* 56
D 48
M 32
P 16


A’ Level

A Level Grade UCAS Tariff Points
 A* 56
A 48
B 40
C 32
D 24
E 16


International Baccalaureate

IB High Level Certificate Grade UCAS Tariff Points
H7 56
H6 48
H5 32
H4 24
H3 12
H2 0
H1 0

The new investment will mean that industry-related technical pathway BTEC courses are provided across seven GEMS schools in the UAE, these now including:

  • GEMS Wellington Academy – Al Khail, which will now deliver a new suite of tech-focused BTECs. Our review can be found here.
  • GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis, which offers blended post-16 pathways across BTEC, A’ Level and the IB. Our review can be found here.
  • GEMS FirstPoint School – The Villa. Our review can be found here.
  • GEMS World Academy Dubai. Our review can be found here.
  • GEMS Wellington International School. Our review can be found here.
  • Cambridge International School – Dubai. Our review can be found here.
  • GEMS Winchester School – Jebel Ali, The Gardens. Our review can be found here.

GEMS has made the decision so that it can meet the individual talents and career aspirations of students at its schools. Offering multiple pathways is expensive for schools to deliver but is the best way of ensuring that a school can meet the needs of every child.

The BTEC qualification was established to prepare students with the direct and relevant industry-ready knowledge, applied skills and experience demanded by employers. They were designed to fill the gap left  by A’ Levels which, given their basis on theoretical and conceptual knowledge, were less relevant to business and industry.

GEMS Wellington Academy – Al Khail has introduced a technology-focused suite of  BTEC qualifications including:

  • Technology
  • Bio Medical Science
  • Business Entrepreneurship
  • Sport
  • The Performing Arts

GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis offers a combination of A Level, BTEC and International Baccalaureate courses.

Michael Gernon, Chief Education Innovation Officer, GEMS Education, said:

“At GEMS Education, we believe that every student and every learner can reach their full potential through a programme of study that best suits their strengths.

Vocational education at GEMS Education is thorough and relevant, equipping 16-18 year olds with the academic and practical skills and know-how they need to successfully progress into their chosen careers.”

Thomas Moriarty, Head of Sixth Form, GEMS Wellington Academy – Al Khail, said:

“At GEMS Wellington Academy – Al Khail, we work with each pupil at a personal level to ensure their chosen pathway matches the undergraduate course of their choice through effective careers education and guidance.

The BTEC International Level 3 qualification is in tune and up-to date with the latest content relating to industries such as Technology, Business, Sport and the Performing Arts.

The heart of the qualification focuses on students putting their learning into practice through real-life scenarios, equipping them with the knowledge and skills to succeed in whatever progression path students choose in the future.”

Our Guide to BTEC, and the new T Level qualification, can be found here.

Our Guide to the IB and the BTEC founded Career-related Programme can be found here.

An example of the battle between different qualifications for which wears the crown of being the gold standard can be found here.

About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of and UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at]

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