United Arab Emirates / Dubai / Al Barsha / GEMS Al Barsha National School

GEMS Al Barsha National School Review

Located in Al Barsha South, in close proximity to GEMS Founders school and GEMS World Academy, the GEMS Al Barsha National School is the first school aimed at attracting Emirati and expat Arab families to a school which will offer a mixture of the UK National Curriculum and the Ministry of Education Arabic and Islamic Studies programmes.
At a glance
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Acceptable
Availability 2020/21
radio_button_unchecked Limited
Availability 2021/22
fiber_manual_record All grades
Annual fee average
AED 49,500
Annual fees
AED 37,800 - 55,800
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
2016
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Karim Murcia
Owner
GEMS Education
Community
Main teacher nationality
British
Main student nationality
Emirati

Nearby nurseries

1km • Montessori curriculum
1.2km • EYFS curriculum
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GEMS Al Barsha National School
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Acceptable
Availability 2020/21
radio_button_unchecked Limited
Availability 2021/22
fiber_manual_record All grades
Annual fee average
AED 49,500
Annual fees
AED 37,800 - 55,800
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
2016
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Karim Murcia
Owner
GEMS Education
Community
Main teacher nationality
British
Main student nationality
Emirati
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Located in Al Barsha South, in close proximity to GEMS Founders school and GEMS World Academy, the GEMS Al Barsha National School is the first school aimed at attracting Emirati and expat Arab families to a school which will offer a mixture of the UK National Curriculum and the Ministry of Education Arabic and Islamic Studies programmes.

In July 2020, GEMS advised that the neighbouring GEMS Al Barsha National School for Boys would merge with the GEMS Al Barsha National School for Girls - now renamed GEMS Al Barsha National School.  There is a certain sense of 'déja vu' here - the Boys section started life in the Girls School and seems to be ending its life back there...

The story so far...

GEMS Al Barsha National School, housed in an impressive building which reflects the colours of the Emirati flag, opened with just over 120 students in mixed gender Foundation classes and gender-separated classes for children from Years 1-8. With approximately 20 children per class, this was a very low student to teacher ratio.

The school has since opened to Year 11 and grown to just over 620 students at the time of its second KHDA inspection in January 2020, with 70 teachers and 19 teaching assistants - the former mainly from the UK.  With a teacher:student ratio 1:9, class numbers are clearly low.  Unfortunately, with a staff turnover of 57%, there are clearly issues among the school's employees - the average for international schools in Dubai is 20-22%. 

The recently announced merger of the Girls and Boys schools to form the renamed GEMS Al Barsha National School means that student numbers have grown to approximately 930  - two-thirds of whom are female students and with similar proportion of Emiratis. A teacher:ratio of 1:8 is, according to GEMS, a demonstration of the investment of the school in a large team of specialist teaching staff to meet the needs of learners.

The Senior Leadership Team of the school, led by Principal Karim Murcia who has joined from the Boys' school, has significant experience and a proven track record in leading Outstanding Schools in the UK and UAE.  Highly qualified UK trained English and Arabic speaking teachers will deliver a rich bilingual curriculum in both Arabic and English.  

What about the curriculum?

GEMS Al Barsha National School follows English National Curriculum including the Early Years Foundation Stage and the National Curriculum from Year to Year 9.  It offers IGCSE/GCSE in Years 10 and 11 and will offer A' Levels for Years 12 and 13. Children in the Foundation Stage to year 2 split 50% of their learning time between Arabic and English. Spanish will be offered from year 6 as an additional language.

GEMS recognised that parents want a high quality international curriculum for their children together with equally high quality teaching of Arabic, Islamic and social studies. Koran recitation is included in assemblies. Not surprisingly 65% of children attending the school are Emirati and the remainder other expat Arab nationals. Approximately 60% of staff are native English speaking and from the UK. The majority are also female.

With the merger of the Boys and Girls' schools, where leadership has been taken by the form Principal of the Boys' school, we would expect a transfer of a significant number of male teachers to join the new merged staff.  The school will operate single gender classes from Year 1. with only students in the Foundation Stage being in mixed-gender classes. 

What about the Facilities?

The school offers the usual range of high-quality facilities commensurate with the price point. Main facilities include two libraries (one each for primary and secondary schools) an Auditorium, a performance studio, Music Rooms, Art Rooms, a Design Technology Room, Food Technology Rooms, ICT labs, Science Laboratories - specifically for Biology, Chemistry and  Physics, a  School Clinic, Canteen and dedicated Prayer Rooms.

Outdoor facilities include Indoor Sports Halls, Outdoor Playing Areas, a Football Pitch and Swimming Pool.

What the inspectors say...

GEMS Al Barsha National School for Girls received its second KHDA inspection in January 2020.  The school was rated Good at its initial inspection in 2018-19.  Unfortunately, it was not able to maintain this rating and received instead the minimum Acceptable rating for 2019-20.  The Boys' school was due to be inspected for the first time in 2019-20, but this was cancelled due to the school closures as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic.

Whilst inspectors praised the dual language approach of the school, achievement in most subjects was rated Acceptable (with the exception of the Foundation Stage where progress in English, Maths and Science was found to be Good).   Attainment in English in the Primary section was found to be weak, as was attainment in Maths, English and Science in the Secondary school.  Equally concerning was the downgrading in progress in English in the Primary section, and in Maths and Science in the Secondary section from Good to Acceptable.

Assessment and Curriculum design and implementation in both the Primary and Secondary school sections were also downgraded from Good to Acceptable.  Positive aspects were students' personal and social development which were rated Good across the school, whilst students' understanding of Islamic values and awareness of Emirati and world cultures achieved a Very Good rating.  Similarly, Health and Safety arrangements were rated Very Good, whilst Care and Support were rated Good.  Inspectors praised the school for its "very inclusive ethos and increasingly effective provision for students of determination."

The inspection team praised the school for:

  • Well behaved, polite students who are respectful to peers, adults and visitors
  • Knowledgeable senior leaders with a clear vision for the future of the school
  • Supportive governors who know the school well
  • A very inclusive ethos and increasingly effective provision for students of determination
  • A rich and engaging dual-language learning environment in FS.

In terms of areas of improvement, the inspectors determined that the school should

  • Ensure that teaching is consistently good or better across all phases and subjects.
  • Ensure that teachers use assessment information to inform lesson planning so that the expectations of what students can achieve are higher.
  • Ensure that the curriculum includes adequate progression for the development of knowledge, skills and understanding, across key subjects.

If you would like to read the inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to read the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.

The Buzz

A relatively small number of parents - 72 - responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey. 89% of parents who responded to the survey stated that they were satisfied with the quality of education the school offers, and 98% felt their child is safe at school. Parents considered that school leaders listen to them, that teachers effectively helped their children to develop learning skills and that they were kept well-informed of their achievements.

113 students responded to the KHDA's Wellbeing survey. Almost all students fel tsafe at school and reported positive engagements with teachers. Reported incidences of all forms of bullying were significantly lower than other Dubai private schools

If you are parent, teacher or student at GEMS Al Barsha National School and would like to share your experience with other potential members of your community, please do so by completing our survey here.

What about the fees?

Fees (including a 10% discount on the KHDA approved amounts) are AED 37,800 in FS1, AED 46,800 from FS2 to Year 6, AED 51,300 from Years 7 to 9 and AED 55,800 from Year 10 to 12. There is an application fee of AED 525 per child.

 

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