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, having over 3000 students from over 100 countries enrolled in its second year of operation.
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 for their first year and now, for the 2017 school year, 3250 students.
This is multiple the number of many premium tier schools opening their school gates at the same time in the emirate. Clearly, the GEMS Founders' formula, lower cost education with well specced facilities, is a refreshing change for parents who are feeling the strain of school fees.
Under the leadership of principal Matthew Burfield and vice principal Janet Foley, the school has accepted children from FS 1 to Year 9. GEMS Founders School opened with 14 Foundation Stage classes for 2016 and for 2017, a mere one year later, there are 22 classes of FS2.
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.
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.
* Discounted fee of 5% in the 2nd year only.
The price point clearly has made the school accessible to a wide demographic. Students come from over 100 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. This year is heralded by the opening of an extension to the school with over 60 classrooms.
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 as well as refurbished roofs that are astroturfed and will be utilised as outdoor eating and play areas, as well as for 5-a-side football and cricket.
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 an additional 100 new staff on top of the 97 returning 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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