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United Arab Emirates / Dubai / Al Barsha South / GEMS Founders School

GEMS Founders School Review

If a measure of a new schools success is the number of students joining it, then Gems Founders School is with out doubt one of the most successful to have opened in Dubai.
GEMS Founders School

At a glance

School Type
All Through
Also Known As
GFS
Year Opened
2016
Annual Fees
AED 22,000 - 29,000
Annual Fee Average
AED 27,000
Principal
Matthew Burfield
Owner
GEMS Education
Curricula Taught
Community
City
Dubai
Main Teacher Nationality
British
Main Student Nationality
A mix of nationalities

As one of GEMS Education's most recently opened UK curriculum schools, GEMS Founders appears to have proven what many commentators have advocated for the education scene in Dubai: There is a clear and significant gap for good quality schools which are moderately priced, without the need for extravagant facilities, but with the promise of delivery of a recognised curriculum by qualified staff in a modern and attractive environment.

The sum of  the maths is this: Mid Price + Premium Curriculum - Expensive Facilities =  an immediate 1800 students.

That was the number that on the school's opening day on September 4th 2016 walked into the school for the first time - a multiple of the number of many of premium tier schools opening their school gates at the same time in the emirate.

From the off, the UK curriculum school, under the leadership of principal Matthew Burfield and vice principal Janet Foley has accepted children from FS 1 to Year 8. GEMS Founders School opened with 14 Foundation Stage classes alone.

Note, class sizes range from 25 in foundation to 30 from year one upwards - high for a premium school, but then this is a premium curriculum school at a mid level price point. Note:  A second phase of the school is due to open in September 17 following on from its initial success. 

So what is the price point? Fees range from 22,000 AED for FS1 to just 29,000 AED in Years 7-8. That is a very gentle increase for Dubai, and means if you can afford the school now, the chances are you will still be able to in 3-4 years time. This is not the case for many of the school's peers with considerably sharper year on year increases.

 

Program Annual Tuition
KHDA Approved
Discounted Fee*
FS 1 22,000 18,700
FS 2 25,000 21,250
Year 1-6 27,000 22,950
Year 7-8 29,000 24,650

* Discounted fee of 15% in the 1st year and 5% in the 2nd year only.

The price point clearly has made the school accessible to a wide demographic. Students come from 89 nationalities, with a predominance of Indian children (25%). 

The school may not have the most expensive facilities, but students are not hard done by either. There are in fact a wide range of facilities that includes a large auditorium, dance studio, canteen offering hot meals, primary and secondary libraries, specialist art rooms, IT, science labs and music rooms. GEMS Founders also offers a large multipurpose hall used as a gymnasium but fully fitted with a stage, retractable seating, lighting and sound.

The only obvious facility missing from the school is a swimming pool, which in line with the school's mid-range fees, will not be added to the school's range of facilities. There is plentiful outdoor space both for sports and relaxation including shaded courtyards for outdoor play. 

Approximately 900 children participate in after-school activities including the Real Madrid soccer school and a range of teacher led activities.

Further external suppliers will provide sports and other activities to the school over the coming months. Approximately 60% of children travel by bus to the school and make use of the service following on from their participation in after-school activities. 

The school currently has 97 teaching staff with a further 280 support and administrative staff.  Teaching staff come from the UK and India with an equal split. UK staff are mainly newly qualified and therefore up-to-date with current teaching practices in the UK curriculum - and of course less costly.

There is full provision for children with special education or additional learning needs, and a specific focus on mindfulness and foreign languages with Arabic and French as part of the curriculum and Spanish as an after-school activity.

The school intends to offer further foreign languages which in all likelihood will be parent led. The full range of IGCSE and A level subjects offered will be revealed as the school grows to include Years 10 to 13, and, if it maintains its early trajectory, becomes one of Dubai's most popular all through schools.

 

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