The Best Primary School in the United Arab Emirates 2023 – 2024 Revealed. Top Schools Award Winner. Official.
The SchoolsCompared.com Top Schools Awards for
The Best Primary School in the United Arab Emirates 2023 – 2024
is awarded to:
GEMS Jumeirah Primary School
Our view of GEMS Jumeirah Primary School
This is GEMS Education’s flagship British Primary – and it really shows. Established in 1996 with just 30 students, this was GEMS’ first UK curriculum school. More than a quarter of a century later, little wonder that when you ask parents for the best Primary Schools in Dubai, you wont find a list without JPS.
It’s not about the accolades which come thick and fast, including BSO (across-the-board) and KHDA “Outstanding School” status. Nor is it about the history, or the buildings. In this school it is about, instead, that rarest of all combination of outstanding leadership, outstanding teachers, phenomenal structures of learning and looking after each child, an absolutely beautiful inclusiveness with very mighty engines to respond, GEMS investment – and the impact of adoring parents and students.
Year, after year, after year, these blend to create nothing less than absolute perfection. If you were to try and design the perfect Primary, this would be it.
Without being too controversial, this is also a school that empowers its female faculty, and particularly its leadership. They shine a light on what outstanding leadership looks like and throws out the window any remaining notions that men somehow have the monopoly on outstanding leadership. Longstanding School Principal Rachel Higgins is of a calibre that she could lead any school, anywhere in the world, and achieve the extraordinary for children.
Move beyond this and, admittedly, the scale is massive. When you conjure up the image of a perfect primary, most of us think about a small, intimate school. With around 1500 little ones, this is not that image. However… somehow, inexplicably, when you visit the school, you don’t even see the size. The way it works, in practice, is like lots of those imaginary perfectly intimate child-centric primary schools all combined together in a perfectly proportioned, uber happy and attentive school: you never feel that you are in a big school, or that your little one is going to get lost. In fact, GEMS Jumeirah Primary School makes you feel that your little one is the absolute centre of the universe. And the reason you feel that…. is because they are.
GEMS Jumeirah Primary School deserves every accolade it receives – and many more.
Outstanding for the last consecutive 11 years of inspections (its first two inspections are discounted because the KHDA restricts ranking during its first two inspections), GEMS Jumeirah Primary School is GEMS Education’s tier 1 premium benchmark for the sector. It is led by one of the finest educators in the organisation – no small feat given the number of GEMS Education schools and the calibre of its leadership. The competition here, in the Primary School sector, is extremely fierce – any one of our finalists can put forward a convincing case for being the best in the region, and one of our other finalists has secured our highest accolade more than once across both leadership and her school. Others have secured recognition in other Award categories historically, including one for being the UAE’s happiest school.
Yet in 2023, after intense discussions, our view is that GEMS Jumeirah Primary School, on balance of all of its many, many strengths, and not least its absolutely stellar school leadership, deserves our highest Award.
First, background. This, as above, was GEMS Education’s first UK curriculum school. Established in 1996, without it, or at least without its being successful, it is arguable that GEMS Education would be a very different organisation today – and certainly one without its considerable strengths in British education. Even today, it is a pioneering school for GEMS Education in establishing the metrics of what an outstanding Primary education needs to look like and deliver, one that sets the framework and learning curve for British curriculum schools across its network.
Second, this is not the type of Primary school many British families most naturally associate with the term. This is far from a small village school – the role extends to close to 1500 students. The scale lends complications – but it also lends massive opportunities. On the one hand, how do you deliver the sorts of small school, child-centred, childhood-protecting qualities that are seen as so important by parents, within a school of this scale? On the other, how do you leverage the benefits to their fullest of a school with the income to provide every child with absolutely everything.
Our view, quite uniquely in the sector, is that GEMS Jumeirah Primary School achieves both. The extremely clever school design separates children by years across three age groups (FS, Years 1-2, Years 3-6) and to all intents and purposes these are three schools that play to the distinct needs of children at each phase of learning. More on the investment and its impacts below.
Third, we think that it is worth reflecting on the anniversary of the school’s amazing Principal, Rachel Higgins. 2023 marks her 20th year at the school. This level of commitment to a single school, with all the impacts that come with truly understanding a school and growing with it, is almost unheard of. And Ms Higgins is, by any possible metric, a beyond-outstanding school leader, one recognised not only within the sector but also, near uniformly as such, by colleagues, parents and teachers within her school [source EDSTATICATM] and outside it.
Fourth, on a related note, staff retention here is exceptional. This is a school with a faculty that includes a significant representation of individuals with a tenure above ten years. This is, again, almost unheard of – and particular in the premium British school sector.
Fifth, evidence of the school’s distinctiveness can be found on its extensive modifications to the British EYFS curriculum. Few schools have the confidence to do this, or the history, and depth of Primary experience, on which to base such striking evolution (and improvement).
Sixth, Performing Arts is stand-out for a Primary (and for one of our experts the best in the UAE at this level by a long way).
Seventh, and last but not least, for values, ethics, and character, this school lives and breathes a very deeply felt culture of compassion and kindness. The Spring Fair at GEMS Jumeirah Primary School is one of the most inspiring and beautiful events of the academic year – and entirely built around giving back to those less fortunate. The children engage here in a way that cannot leave you unmoved – and an absolute credit to the humanity defining the JPS experience. This is a school which… cares.
Inspiring to the nth, leadership that shines a light on what really great Headship can deliver, outstanding teaching faculty, children that love school, adoring parents – and a school that both sees every child as an individual and showers on them every available facility, innovation in Primary education and boundless TLC – GEMS Jumeirah Primary School is flagship school for the Emirates and in a class of its own.
The Top Schools Award for Best Primary School in the United Arab Emirates 2023 – 2024 will be presented to GEMS Jumeirah Primary School at a special Breakfast Celebration at The Emirates Golf Club on the morning of 16th November 2023. At the event the recipient of The Top Schools Awards 2023 – 2024 for Outstanding Contribution to Education will be revealed.
Historic winners of the Outstanding Contribution to Education in the UAE Award include H.E. Dr. Abdulla Al Karam, Director General of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, recognised for his era defining leadership of Education in Dubai as a force for good; and the Varkey Family, for their instrumental role in shaping education in the UAE, and ensuring the life chances for generations of children, following the founding of GEMS Education in 1959.
Our extraordinary Finalists and those schools which have achieved outstandingly in so many ways for children in the Best Primary School category follow. Each of the following schools are recognised for their profound contribution to Primary education in the UAE:
Horizon English School
“This is a school we know so well. We have lived and breathed its journey in countless discussions with parents, teachers and school leadership over more years than we can almost count. It is a school that has been consistently adored by its parents, and little ones, since the very beginning. It appears on the radar of every young family looking for a Primary school who lands in Dubai. It’s also a school that gets inundated with pleas by parents at the school, to create a Horizon English Secondary. No one wants to leave. The children never want to be dispersed and taken away from their friends. This is a forever school, or parents would invariably like it to be. Yes, the school today has new slipstream schools, all outstanding. But they are not Horizon English. There is a single reason why this schools sparkles above all others. This is a happy school for children. Everything, absolutely everything, is built around this. Leaders come and go, owners come and go, but you do not change this. You start with the happiness of each individual child, and you build the school, brick by brick, around this each year. If this is the secret to this most loved Primary, delivering it… actually making it happen, is no small task. This is a school where teachers and leadership and owners, have to put themselves last and children first. There is no room for egos. So what you end up with is a school filled to the brim with true teachers, true educationalists whose only care is the children under their care. It’s worth saying that new owners Cognita recognise just how special this school is beyond the sea of Outstandings you’ll find in the inspection reports. It is to their considerable credit that they are investing beyond significantly in a school, leadership, teaching faculty, parental body and little ones that deserve every bit of the love being festooned on them.”
Kings’ School Dubai
“Probably the only school in Dubai that has never not been judged Outstanding, this absolutely beautiful Primary celebrates its twentieth anniversary next year. Over the last two decade’s its success has seen the launch of two outstanding Kings’ all-through schools in Nad Al Sheba and Al Barsha and it’s quite impossible to imagine UAE education without Kings’. Inevitably in providing a summary, you cannot capture every piece of the jigsaw, but it is fair to say that for many parents, the reputation is one of very high academic achievement and child progress combined with a phenomenal commitment to Sport. There is truth in both – and perhaps that is the secret of how Kings’ both achieves extraordinarily for its little ones, but also earns the adoration, and respect, of families and peer schools. The links between Sport and Academic achievement are well rehearsed, and probably one of the defining features of what founds so many UK based public schools. On that note, of all the schools here, you could argue this is the most rigorously
British, something that is supported by its predominantly UK intake. It’s perhaps not so well known that, historically, many parents setting their sights on a DC education, saw Kings’ as part of the jigsaw in giving their little ones every chance to be accepted. Historically it seemed to work too, although the two Kings’ schools these days capture the hearts of the majority of graduating little ones and their families. It’s certainly one phenomenal Primary, and on its own terms, and more importantly for the children it is made for, and assuming there is such a thing, it’s beyond perfect. If there isn’t such a thing as perfect, this school just made it.”
Repton Abu Dhabi – Rose Campus
KHDA: Very Good with Outstanding Features
“As we write this, Repton Abu Dhabi, and its beautiful Rose Campus, has learned of its recognition by BSO (British Schools Overseas) as an across-the-board “Outstanding School.” Of course, we knew that. But it is a reminder that Repton in the UAE extends much further than the fairy tale campus of Repton Dubai and its arches and turrets. In Abu Dhabi, Repton reinvents itself as a giant of future looking modernity with its eyes on technology and the future, its architecture closely matching its ambitions to deliver the future of education in the UAE for its students. If that is the dynamic of Repton School Abu Dhabi as a whole, the Rose Campus lives perhaps a little more in alignment with its naming. Not perhaps quite the rose gardens of England’s perfect Summertime, but the sense of a school confident in itself and its capacity to begin the journey of inspiring its little ones that they can create a grand future for themselves – and others. Academically selective, in so far as any school for our littlest ones can be, this is nevertheless an internationally deeply inclusive school – something that has always been a defining strength of Repton in all its UAE schools. EAL is a formidable strength. The focus is traditional – the three Rs, but with technology made equally important in the mix. Arabic too is given the importance it deserves – you have to start young to have any chance of making its delivery a success for older children and it’s a USP that every student who is educated in the UAE should be taking with them into their lives ahead wherever they travel in the world. For a school that carries the responsibility of ensuring its little ones are ready for the many challenges of a Repton education before them at its sister slipstream Fry Campus there is a powerful recognition that this is an age too where play is centrifugal to childhood and learning. This is a happy school, not a hothouse. Far from it. If it does stand stand-out from its peers, it is in the trajectory and structure. Whilst Rose Campus is strictly not a Primary School, we have considered the school in the context of the journey students make to Year 6 to reach our picture here, a journey that is distinctive and unified, and resolutely Primary, if divided by location and naming.”
Victory Heights Primary School
“Multi-award winning, it seems that Victory Heights has been in the Emirates forever, despite being the younger child on the block compared to the majority of its outstanding peers. This is another school that we have grown up with, almost since it was just an idea drawn in the sand of its location in Sports City. We say “location”, but it is better described as the “beating heart” of Sports City and its surrounding areas, such is its impact and community reach. This is another school that has been crafted, where it matters, not from bricks and mortar, but, rather, from its quite extraordinary leadership and teachers, collectively an extraordinary engine of child inspiration and learning. Every teacher here is a conviction educationalist – and experiencing a VHPS lesson is something you can never forget, such is the impact and “magic.” In truth, even as an adult, you are drawn in, to the point of forgetting your age and thinking wistfully “if only I could go back in time.” This is a school where every child is known by name, and personality – and cared for on those terms. It’s a school where each child has the confidence to question everything and love learning for its own sake, not because it is imposed. It’s a school where, behind the scenes, the pedagogy is complex, structured, extremely clever and unique, but it’s a school where you do not even know it is present, such is the skill of faculty. Progress and attainment is off the scale here, and you name the school, it’s likely that it would welcome a VHPS child with open arms on graduation. If there is a single way of capturing what is achieved here it is this. VHPS children have a childhood here. When they graduate, they are ready for the world. Each child leaves the school both wise and enormously accomplished, but also little and still a child in all the millions of ways that matter. They still believe that anything and everything is possible. They still believe that goodness will always prevail. They still believe that they can, and will, make a difference in the world. They still believe in all the wonders of reading and the worlds it opens to them. And yes…. maybe they do still believe that fairies live behind a tiny door in every garden, but they also know that that this is a secret of being little and one day they shall have to say good-bye.”
A final note.
The Top Schools Awards takes over a year to produce. It engages with parents, students educators and educationalists over countless months, and the work invested in these Awards is the stuff of sleepless nights and deeply felt responsibility. We produce these Awards to celebrate our amazing schools, our magnificent teachers – who are the centre of the universe, our school leaders, whose lives will be judged by their impact on children, and the amazing students that they build a future for. These Awards are only about recognising this – in a world in which our schools and educators have far, far too little recognition. If on exploring these Awards you do one single thing, it should be to reach out to each and every one and thank them for all they do, each and every one of our schools, teachers and school leaders. You have absolutely no idea how much that would mean.
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