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Top Schools Awards 2021. Results Live. GEMS FirstPoint School – The Villa Awarded The Top Schools Award for Best School for Technical and Vocational Stream Education in the UAE 2021-22.
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Top Schools Awards 2021. Results Live. GEMS FirstPoint School – The Villa Awarded The Top Schools Award for Best School for Technical and Vocational Stream Education in the UAE 2021-22.

by Jon WestleyDecember 6, 2021

The Top Schools Award for Best School for Technical and Vocational Stream Education in the UAE 2021-22 is awarded to

GEMS FirstPoint School – The Villa.

It’s very difficult to know where to begin with this quite exceptional school. It’s not one, perhaps, that you would think would figure quite so powerfully in this year’s Top Schools Awards – and yet for parents who follow us, it will not come as a surprise. This is something of the sleeping giant in GEMS Education amongst British schools – and it is no doubt due in no small part to the quite stellar leadership of Matthew Tompkins, Principal and CEO, who has driven the school to set benchmarks across almost every area of provision. Nor is this a Tier 1 premium school in terms of fees – quite the opposite. GEMS established the school to deliver an outstanding education but at an affordable price point for families. This is a school, that in the area of technical education provision, positively roars.

If you want evidence look little further than its establishment in the UAE of the first BTECs in game technologies. This is a school fighting for the future of BTEC – in a global environment where the gold standard technical qualification is under threat from a British government hell-bent on promoting T Levels at its expense – and pioneering qualifications that students both want and which hold the promise of careers in sectors for which other qualifications are meaningless.

The move is part of wider investment by the school in building unparalleled links between GEMS FirstPoint students and some of the biggest Blue Chip names in global business and industry. We have celebrated widely this year the school’s links with the FT – but this a just the touchstone of a network of global and regional links that are being pioneered by a school that sees business and industry as something to be celebrated rather than something that fails, by virtue of those schools that still seem fixated only on academics. The world is changing rapidly and FirstPoint is positioning itself and its students on the front line without apology. It is not alone – the strengthening of technical stream education globally demonstrates a powerful warning shot across the bow that schools need to do more, much more, if they are to ensure the futures of their children in a world where academic pieces of paper may not cut it with future employers – or entrepreneurs.

FirstPoint is not alone in eschewing the rejection of technical stream education worn as a badge of honour by those schools set on preserving a status quo of high achieving academic children – and the also-rans.  The International Baccalaureate Organisation established the Career-related Programme  – one founded in 99% of cases with BTEC technical stream education at its heart – not as an afterthought, but as a necessity in a world in which technical stream education may very well end up “king”. Today the qualification is increasingly seen as an equal of the Diploma, and by many schools its better.

Photograph of Matt Tompkins CEO and Principal GEMS FirstPoint School Dubai - here he discusses the vital importance of internships and links with industry in schools

Matthew Tompkins, CEO and Principal, GEMS FirstPoint School in Dubai at the school’s Centre of Digital Excellence and hub for 21st century industry partnerships.

In a world is which making things carries at least equal importance with thinking them, technical stream education deserves a powerful voice. It finds it at GEMS FirstPoint School in Dubai – and in spades. If you do not think the world is not already turning on its head, look no further than the flip by the British Government when defining the status of lorry drivers. From being manual trades worth less than a mention, they are today seen as vital experts in logistics, critical to the global economy – and are being paid more than many lawyers to boot. Without their skills the global economy is, literally, collapsing. Many believe, with justification, that the move to a digital world will see a core of technical skills being valued above all others in countless new industries, many of which we are yet to imagine. Schools that are on the cutting edge of this change will show themselves not only pioneers of change for the sake of it, but very real investors in the life chances of their graduating children.


The new investment will see GEMS FirstPont school securing its place in the history books as the first school to offer BTEC courses in Game Design and Esports. Forbes identifies Esports as a $1.1 billion industry which PWC calculates is growing at an astonishing 10% compounded growth rate. The games industry is worth far in excess of $100 billion each year worldwide – and pressure is mounting for Esports to be recognised as an Olympics sport following in the footsteps of Chess. Finally, Esports and the digital industries are both highly inclusive, as well as being sectors in which both men and women equally excel.

Over the course of many visits to GEMS FirstPoint School this year, we have found a school brimming with innovation and investment in cutting edge technical education and links with industry. The three go hand in hand – and the school recognises this. What is so surprising is to find this in a school in the UAE – this is a single area where the UK shines over its international counterparts and private sector schools globally are in the majority playing catch-up.

GEMS FirstPoint School – The Villa could not be a more deserving winner of The Top Schools Award for Best School for Technical and Vocational Stream Education in the UAE 2021-22.

As importantly, this award matters – and this is a school that demonstrates, very powerfully, why.

© 2021. All rights reserved.

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

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