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GEMS Sports Academy, Bradenton Preparatory Academy Campus, Dubai Sports City
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GEMS Sports Academy, Bradenton Preparatory Academy Campus, Dubai Sports City

by May 19, 2016

Updated September 2017

Parents should note that the following is for historic information only. 

Sadly, we at have recently learned that the GEMS Sports Academy closed its operation at Bradenton Prep Academy. We understand that students have been given the option of normal academic integration as a traditional student at Bradenton Prep Academy, or continuation of their academic studies via iCademy. No confirmation of the options provided to those students gifted in Sport to continue their specialist sports training within GEMS is available, nor of GEMS future plans, if any, for specialist Sport provision. GEMS Education has been asked for comment, but have so far not done so. We will update this when we have received a formal response from GEMS education.

GEMS Sports Academy describes a very special and unique programme developed by GEMS Education in Dubai to nurture elite student athletes in the emirate. Established in 2014, it is the first programme of its type in the UAE and has much in common with best-in-class US programmes designed from their core to nurture the gifts of elite sports men and women with outstanding talent in their sporting field.

To understand the Sports Academy offer, it is best understood by prospective parents and students as a vehicle for GEMS to deliver an individually mapped elite sports based secondary education, rather than seeing it as a “bricks and mortar” school. The focus is definitely targeted on Sports, but with a US curriculum backed fall-back running in parallel to ensure that students have the grounding to leave doors and options open for diversification both within and outside sports later should circumstances require it.

To achieve this, GEMS Sports Academy operates from a base at the Bradenton Preparatory Academy Campus, the choice of base hub designed by GEMS to afford its students access to a core spectrum of Tier 1 GEMS sports facilities. Whilst the course is highly structured with a curriculum designed to deliver a core set of deliverables, the emphasis is very much on bespoke provision designed to bring out the gifts of each sports man or woman.

What GEMS has done is effectively in creating the school is to tie in the best of its sports experience and expertise across all its schools under the Sports Academy brand and umbrella. The Principal of the school, James Tucker, has the role of bringing the best of GEMS resources together, tailored to the needs of each student, with the aim of bringing out the full potential of each child’s sporting gifts. Technically his brief gives him the opportunity to access GEMS resources across the Emirates to build the right programme for each talent.

“At the GEMS Sports Academy we believe by harnessing the phenomenal power of sport in combination with internationally recognised qualifications and athletic development ensures that our student athletes reach their full potential.
No two-student athletes are the same. At the GEMS Sports Academy we help each student progress in the areas where they need the most improvement to meet that outstanding potential.”

James Tucker, Principal, GEMS Sports Academy


The concept has been designed to market the programme directly to “outstanding students with elite sporting talent” with the aim of directing and nurturing individual skills to the point at which students can access major global sports scholarships, particularly in the US.

GEMS Sports Academy offers a US K12 academic and sporting curriculum, so that sportsmen and women have the academic backing in place for their future career, whether in sport, affiliated to sport or, where, for whatever reason, their career takes them in an alternative direction. It should be noted that currently there is no advertised provision for Advanced Placement (AP) and we strongly recommend that prospective parents consider the school in conjunction with US Curriculum Guide which can be found here.

Because the programme is primarily targeted to sports, student responsibility for self-guided and disciplined learning is much higher than in an exclusively traditional academic-driven/focused school and we would argue that for parents to provide the highest level of academic options for their children, they should consult with GEMS about how they could put in place the core academic building blocks to deliver AP success in conjunction with the basic High School Diploma. This is particularly important where students have ambitions for top tier university entrance outside the US. Given the powerful bespoke ideals at the heart of the programme’s creation by GEMS, we believe that there is little that could be negotiated – subject to the commitment, ability and drive of each child.

Mr Tucker’s experience offers an extraordinary fit for the Academy across a career equally weighted in education, professional sports and sports management/education. A former footballer for the Nashville Metros, he worked in various senior leadership roles at both EDEXCEL Pearson and Pamoja education (both intrinsic academic partners of the Academy), as well as latterly in a role as the Director of Education at Bolton Wanderers Football Club, part of which involved working as an Advisor to the Premier League.

Students at GEMS Sports Academy have a choice between two programmes:

  • An extended, 7-year, Grades 6 to Grade 12 K 12 sports programme based on US curricular and culminating in the High School Diploma; or,
  • A two year fast-track elite sports IB backed programme between Grades 11 and 12 only, again culminating in the US High School Diploma.

The academic element of the programme is cleverly delivered via GEMS blended learning through its specialist Digital Learning Hub. This delivers learning through a predominantly on-line mix of channels, the benefit of which is to allow students to concentrate on sports and build academic programmes around their availability and core sporting timetable as required.

The blended learning platform is run in association with WASC accredited, Oxford (UK) based Pamoja Education (see above.)

Students also access the full spectrum of KHDA defined outstanding Wellington Silicon Valley facilities, ranging from the Digital Learning hub itself, to  the spectrum of state of the art science labs; design & technology suites; art facility and studios; landmark Performing Arts Centre (which includes a 680 seat auditorium); rehearsal and teaching suites for music, dance and drama; full media suite including television, radio and live recording studios – and outstanding, expansive sporting facilities including 3, 25m 6-lane swimming pools (with diving platforms and a learner pool); 2 full sized sports fields (3G AstroTurf); 3 large multi-purpose indoor sports halls; fitness suite; multiple outdoor multi-purpose court areas, 100m sprint track; and cricket practice nets.

The blended learning track at GEMS Wellington Academy clusters students in classes of up to 25 students. Because the courses are taught asynchronously, students choose when to learn within the context of their sporting commitments.

Academy students train as professional athletes with a minimum 23 hours of training per week, aligned with a bespoke, individually tailored sporting development plan spread over each 38-week Academic year. Core facilities at Brandenton include a full-court indoor gymnasium; 25 meter swimming pool; multi-purpose covered courts for basketball, tennis and badminton, astroturf pitch and central dual-purpose auditorium and additional sport hall.

In some ways, however, clearly lists of facilities are a distraction from what is the substance of the offer. It is better to see the school as offering professional sporting led individual coaching for students. It is the teaching that is arguably the better litmus test of what is on offer for prospective parents and students.

An example of one development programme, this directed at elite cricketers, is a joint specialist Professional Cricket curriculum developed with Dubai’s ICC Academy, led by ICC Academy coaches over the two-year period. The provision is described as a “milestone in producing cricketing talent for the future.”

Other programmes are directed at US scholarships, including a highly successful soccer programme. The model focus on the link between skills and performance on the pitch to technically develop student soccer skills as well as softer individual disciplines in areas such as confidence, focus, communication, nutrition, health and sensitivity.

This said, Mr Tucker is driven to map out each individual’s educational and sporting journey by leveraging whatever GEMS resources are required to deliver on their promise. If a programme does not exist, he will build it.

Prospective parents, and students, should note that Places on the programme are limited as academy classes are capped to maintain low student-to-teacher ratios.

Our view is that through GEMS Sports Academy, and in the recruitment and support of Mr Tucker and his students, GEMS has really shone a light on how education in the UAE can set world benchmarks in individualised education. It is hard to generalise about the quality of provision, because that provision is very much dependent on the individual needs and talents of children.

For parents of children who have the potential to shine as sports athletes, and who have hitherto not had a route for their child’s talent to be developed, GEMS Sports Academy provides an excellent opportunity. For those parents where the fees are a hurdle too high (this does not come cheap) GEMS does operate a genuine bursary and scholarship programme from Wellington that may be accessible to parents of students with the talent, but without the funds to support them.


Details to consider
Type of school

Private, for-profit

WSA Good School

Under review 2017-18

Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

YEAR 6: 85,000 (US Grade)
YEAR 7: 85,000 (US Grade)
YEAR 8: 85,000 (US Grade)
YEAR 9: 85,000 (US Grade)
YEAR 10: 85,000 (US Grade)
YEAR 11: 85,000 (US Grade)
YEAR 12: 85,000 (US Grade)


US K12
US High School Diploma

External Exam Boards

Pamoja Education
The Schools Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

IB DipM Pass Rate

(1) GEMS education is not transparent and does not publish the examination results for individual schools

IB DipM Average Grade

(1) GEMS education is not transparent and does not publish the examination results for individual schools


Yes, competitive
(1) GEMS is currently accepting admissions into grades 9 – 12 for the US syllabus programme.
(2) The school weights academic and sporting talent.
(3) Academy coaches require student-athletes who have a strong commitment to academics, athletics and personal growth to be considered for admission
(4) All prospective student-athletes must submit a completed application, including academic records and recommendations.
(5) All prospective families should schedule a visit to the campus and meet academy coaches and academic teaching staff
(6) Places on the programme are limited as academy classes are capped to maintain low student-to-teacher ratios. Students will need to progress through a structured academic and athletic admissions criteria in order to be accepted for 2016/17 acceptance.
(7) Students need to pass an athletic test before admission. If students do not pass this athletic test they will not be accepted into the Academy.

Waiting list


Value Added

Not published (whichschooladvisor projected HIGH)

Number of Students

Sports Academy in phased launch but limited places.
(1) GEMS Wellington Silicon Valley: 4,107
(2) Brandenton: 824

Teacher to Student Ratio


Largest nationality teachers

British (largest nationality)

Teacher turnover


Year opened



Dubai Sports City (base)

Student composition

British (largest nationality)
Total nationalities: 17
Other nationalities/countries: Netherlands, Spain, South Africa, Russia, UAE, Philippines, India, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Sri Lanka, USA, Germany and France


Mixed, co-educational

School canteen



GEMS Educaton

Admissions Telephone

+971 (0) 4 818 3600 (Dubai Sports City Campus)
+971 (0) 561785476 (James Tucker, Principal, direct mobile)

Web Address
Progress Nur SEM



• An elite sports education in the UAE
• Individualised sporting programmes
• Programmes designed for raw potential and developed talent
• Potential scholarships for the most outstanding students
• Leadership committed to battling individually for slipstream global scholarships


• Typical GEMS Tier 1 Premium+ fee structure
• Places in very high demand

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A genuinely exceptional programme for which GEMS Education, and the Academy’s Principal deserve considerable praise. For aspiring professional sports men and women highly recommended.

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About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of and UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at]
  • pedro banda
    April 23, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Unfortunately, the program has been killed by GEMS/Bradenton PA in the middle of the academic year for reasons not disclosed, leaving all students unattended and with a total lack of support.
    Very unprofessional attitude and actions from GEMS, which is forcing us parents to seek legal actions for an outrageous decision.
    Please update your page so to reflect that an excellent program with a very bright future in the region has been discontinued by arbitrary decisions originated from an unprofessional individual (BPA principal)

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