Update: New Schools, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, 2014-2015

Update: New Schools, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, 2014-2015
By David Westley
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GEMS Firstpoint School - The Villa

Opening: September 2014
Curriculum: National Curriculum for England
Age Group: FS to Year 8 initially, eventually up to Year 13
Fees: 38,000 AED to 55,000 AED (Yr 8). Discounted initial rate of 30,400 AED to 44,000 AED.
Other fees: Registration Fee: AED 1,000, Entry Fee: AED 2,500 non refundable.
Location: The Villas, Dubai
Capacity: 4,300

GEMs Education is by far the largest education provider in the UAE, with schools in every curriculum, and tailored to pretty much every demographic segment of the emirates.

As a result GEMs is not a stranger to opening new schools in the UAE, which means that, all things being equal, you can rely on its schools being open on time, and for processes to be in place from day one.

In fact GEMs is not just opening one school in Dubai in September 2014. It is also opening the GEMs Metropole school, just down the road in Motor City.

Both schools are currently recruiting students from FS to Yr 8. Both are English curriculum schools, although FirstPoint is the more 'upmarket' - at least in terms of fees - of the two.

Both schools are rather large - First Point has a capacity for 4,300 students, a shade bigger that the Metropole which has a capacity for 4,100.

Anything different about it?
Two comments stand out in the Principal's statement.

1. "The school will be a pioneering “GEMS Skills School” with a strong emphasis on the development of Entrepreneurial and Professional Skills through the delivery of a wide range of applied learning courses." We have not heard of a "GEMs Skills School" before, and could find no other reference to them, but we very much like the idea. There is a considerably lack of skills based learning in the UAE, and teaching entrepreneurship has to be a first.

2. "Our curriculum will offer a full, broad and balanced range of learning opportunities but with strong ties to local culture. Together with the rest of the school, Foundation Students will study Arabic." The principal also notes the school is very much for local and expatriate students.

In terms of facilities, this is GEMs, and therefore it has the bases covered well. It will have a 500 Seater Auditorium, 25m Swimming Pool, Learners Pool, 6 Court Sports Hall, Specialist Drama Space & Black Box Theatre Space, Music Technology Suite, Ensemble Room, Recording Studio...

The 3D rendering of the building looks very nice too...

GEMs Education has a pretty good track record of delivering on time. No reason as of yet to see why FirstPoint, would not be.


GEMS Metropole School

Opening: September 2014
Curriculum: National Curriculum for England
Age Group on opening: FS1 to Year 8
Fees: 33,000 to 44,000 AED (Yr 8) initial discounted rate 26,400 to 35,200 AED
Where: Motor City, Dubai
Capacity: 4,100

The second of the two GEMs England curriculum school that will open in 2014, and literally just down the road from First Point.

Fees are lower than its sister school by about 10,000 AED per year, but the school follows the same Cambridge based curriculum. In fact, this is the most affordable new, English curriculum based schools to be opening next year.

Fee differentials are often based on school size, classroom sizes, teacher profiles, facilities on offer, and the breadth of courses.

GEMs Education often comes under fire for its commercial approach, however no other school group comes close in catering for the markedly different levels of purchasing power in the UAE.

Anything different about it:
It is another well thought out GEMs school that will take children from Foundation Stage all the way through to A' Levels.

One area of difference may come from its location. GEMS Metropole School is located in Motor City, close to Sports City and Studio City. "Recognising this, the school will place added emphasis on health and wellbeing and digital media through the curriculum and after school activities and will seek to develop sporting and media links within the area."


Bilva Indian School

Opening: April 2014
Age groups on opening: KG1 to Grade 6
Curriculum: CBSE
Fees: 12,000 to 19,000 AED
Location: Al Ghusais School Zone, Deira
Capacity: 3,000
Tel: +971 56 1158701 / +971 56 1158702
Website: www.bisedu.ae

A new CBSE based Indian curriculum school. The school says it will be based on Indian culture and values with an international outlook.

The school's inauguration ceremony was held in March. The school is all set to go.


Cranleigh Abu Dhabi

Opening: September 2014
Age groups on opening: FS1 - Y9 (Y13 by 2019)
Fees: 65,000 to 80,000
Other fees: Registration fee, 500 AED, offset against Term 1 fees for successful applicants.
Location: Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi
Capacity: 1500
Web site: http://www.cranleigh.ae
Tel: 06 8008342

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi will be approximately three times the size in terms of student numbers as its UK namesake - 1600, as opposed to 600, when it reaches full capacity in 2020.

Teaching staff will grow in number to around 140 when the school is fully mature.

It makes sense then that the project team involved have not tried to "clone" its 150 year old, considerably more bespoke sister school in the United Kingdom, but to create something new and modern for Middle East.

That said, it's unlikely the team will want this to be known as Cranleigh in name only either. The UK school's motto - ‘Ex Cultu Robur – from Culture Comes Strength’, is peppered liberally across the school's web site, and used to fuse into its local setting - Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi's cultural centrepiece.

The school will be built across seven hectares making Cranleigh Abu Dhabi the largest school campus in the capital when it is complete. That includes boarding facilities – a first for Abu Dhabi - which will become operational in 2017.

The school does not yet know whether it will offer A' Levels, or the IB.

"The A-level system has recently finished an extensive review in the UK, though the details are yet to be specified. Once these are in place, we will have time before 2015 to implement whatever Year 12 and 13 course is felt appropriate."

Anything different about the school?
Signs are good that Cranleigh will be an extraordinarily well put together school. Its facilities look truly first class, and its grounds magnificent. However it is the location, Saadiyat Island, that could - when the island's projects are complete - be the true differentiator of Cranleigh Abu Dhabi.

From what we can see it's looking good. The school does however still have a rather large number of teachers, including some quite senior positions, it is still looking to recruit. Time is ticking...

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