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

GEMS Founders School Dubai Review

Originally to be part of the GEMS Winchester brand, the decision to create a completely new brand has certainly worked for the GEMS Founders school - if a measure of a new school's success is the number of students joining it. On this measure alone, Founders has been without doubt one of the most successful schools to have opened in Dubai, reaching 6,139 students from over 100 countries in its fifth year of operation.
Parents' Rating
3.9 out of 5 based on 259 reviews
At a glance
School type
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Availability 2022/23
Availability 2023/24
Annual fee average
AED 29,000
Annual fees
AED 22,455–33,683
Price band help
Opening year
School year
Sep to Jul
Teacher turnover help
Matthew Burfield
GEMS Education
Main student nationality
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom

Nearby nurseries

1.2km • Bespoke Curriculum curriculum
1.5km • EYFS curriculum
1.8km • EYFS curriculum
Does your child attend this school? Take our survey and help other parents.
WhichSchoolAdvisor's annual school survey.
favorite favorite_border Save
GEMS Founders School Dubai
School type
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Availability 2022/23
Availability 2023/24
Annual fee average
AED 29,000
Annual fees
AED 22,455–33,683
Price band help
Opening year
School year
Sep to Jul
Teacher turnover help
Matthew Burfield
GEMS Education
Main student nationality
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom
MORE arrow_drop_down

Originally to be part of the GEMS Winchester brand, the decision to create a completely new brand has certainly worked for the GEMS Founders school - if a measure of a new school's success is the number of students joining it. On this measure alone, Founders has been without doubt one of the most successful schools to have opened in Dubai, reaching 6,139 students from over 100 countries in its fifth year of operation.

The story so far...

Heading towards its seventh year of operation (from September 2023)  GEMS Founders School Dubai (GFS) has clearly proven what many commentators had advocated for the education scene in Dubai: There was 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 fees plus premium curriculum, subtract expensive facilities, equals an immediate 1800 students on its opening year in 2016; 3250 students for the 2017 school year, 3,800 students for 2018, over 4,200 for 2020, 5,500 for 2021 and almost at full capacity of 6,113 students in 2023.  Whilst it is relatively common for Indian curriculum schools to operate with such high student numbers, GEMS Founders School Dubai undoubtedly has broken the mould of UK curriculum schools in the UAE.

The fact that the school has been able to successfully manage this growth in its first years, and achieved a KHDA Good rating on its first (and second) inspection, is itself a testament to the school's success.  Perhaps more impressive is GFS' achievement of an Outstanding rating from British Schools Overseas in May 2022 - indicating that the school is accredited by the UK Government's Department of Education in (considerably more than!) meeting its requirements for international schools offering the English National Curriculum. 

And it's not just the KHDA who are happy with the performance of GEMS Founders!

Our WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Survey shows parents are also more than satisfied. With responses from over 250 parents, an overwhelming 87% of parents would recommend GFS to other parents, and 84% have never considered moving their child to another school - a considerable achievement given the usual teething problems associated with any new school. Even fees are felt to be acceptable to the majority of respondents, with 72% (compared with a UAE school average of 50%) saying they represent good value for money and only 3% disagreeing.  Read all about their views in the Buzz.

Inevitably there are niggles - in a school of this size and popularity, it would be a miracle if all members of the community are happy.  Some concerns around A Level and IGCSE options have been expressed, and it appears that communication does not always work 100% of the time, but the vast majority of parents who commented on our surveys reflected comments similar to the following:

"I have 4 children who have attended the school since its opening. Two are in primary and two in secondary. Our children's happiness and wellbeing, along with their safety are definitely the strength of GFS. I'm extremely happy and satisfied with their learning, progress and opportunities that are constantly offered to my children."

Students come from 102 different nations, with the top ten Indian,  followed by Egyptian,  Pakistani, Jordanian, UK, and Filipino.  US and UAE citizens are also represented, together with those from Syria and Sri Lanka. GFS also educates a substantial number (close to 600) of students who have been identified as students of Determination.

According to the school it offers "the best value for money in the UAE.  We are a DSIB rated “Good” school in our very first inspection with modern state of the art facilities and a truly internationally recognised curriculum. Most importantly, the culture and ethos at our school is second to none with the most positive and kind community you will find".

The proof of the pudding, so to speak, is clearly in the eating...

In March 2021, GEMS announced that GEMS Founders was to expand into the then defunct GEMS Al Barsha National School for Boys' premises, opening its doors in September 2021 to an additional 1,800 students.

In so doing, GFS became the largest UK curriculum school in Dubai with close to 6,200 students in total across the two neighbouring campuses.  The expansion has not only increased capacity, but  enhanced facilities, with students having access to two additional sports halls, two multi use games areas, a football pitch, a dance studio, two libraries, one dining hall and an additional 200sqm of playground.

Read our recent WSA Review Visit

Under the leadership of Principal Matthew Burfield and Vice Principal Janet Foley, the school accepted children from FS 1 to Year 13 in 2021. As an indication of the demand for the school, and its success in meeting this demand, GEMS Founders School opened with 14 Foundation Stage classes for 2016 and by 2018 this had risen to 24. 

One of the few 'affordable' schools in the New Dubai area, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com understands that the school is one that always has healthy waiting lists.

Unusually, Founders went ahead with opening Year 12 (the first year of Sixth Form and A/AS levels) without waiting for students to complete their IGCSE exams in Year 11.  The first Year 11 students sat their IGCSE exams in June 2020.  Such was the appeal of the Founders offering that in 2021, the school attracted 300 students to its Sixth Form.

Senior Secondary students at GEMS Founders.

Class sizes range from an average of 25 in Foundation to 30 from Year one to Year 11, reducing again to 25 in Years 12 and 13 - high for a premium school, but then this is a premium curriculum school at an affordable mid-range price point.  Maximum class sizes are 27, 32 and 28 respectively.

With 10 classes in FS1, 14 in FS2, and 12 per year group in Years 1 to 6, 8 per per year group in Years 7 to 11 and 6 each in Years 12 and 13, parents do need to appreciate from the outset, just how large this school is, and whether they feel it will suit their child. 

With the expansion of the school to the neighbouring building, GFS has increased the number of  FS classes and opportunities to increase secondary provision will also be available.  There are no plans to increase Years 1 to 6 at the time of writing. 

Some 345 teachers support students throughout the school, and, in order to address adequate support within the Early Years and Key Stage 1 classes, a teaching assistant is available in each classroom - there are 84 teaching assistants across the school.  The vast majority of teachers are native English speakers and come from a range of 50 different nationalities. Teaching staff are 50% UK-trained (not related to nationality but their qualification) and 50% from a non-UK trained background (with qualifications from India, Pakistan, South Africa, Serbia and Romania).

One of the most significant factors in GFS' success has been the consistent and stable senior leadership team who have been in post since opening in 2016. As the school has grown, there has been an increase in experienced colleagues joining the school.  This strengthening of the team has also facilitated the strategic direction, which has changed from achieving Good in the first KHDA/DSIB inspection round, to now driving towards Very Good and Outstanding judgments. 

With a teacher:student ratio of 1:18, delivering the level of personal attention and support can be a challenge - higher fee UK curriculum schools typically have a teacher:student ratio of 1:12 or thereabouts - and this is clearly where a compromise has been made in order for the school to deliver a UK curriculum at an affordable price. 

According to the school, "GEMS Founders School has a good mix of experience levels and different educational backgrounds. Staff range from newly qualified teachers to those who have taught for over 20 years. This blend allows us to benefit from the most current and up to date thinking form those who have just completed their university courses as well as those who have been teaching in multiple schools in multiple contexts. All teachers at GFS have a teaching qualification either a BEd or a BA/BSc followed by a PGCE/iPGCE". The school does not disclose the budget for professional development, but in common with all GEMS schools, we would expect this to be an area of ongoing focus.

Clearly GFS is making the right decisions in terms of recruitment. According to the KHDA, "comprehensive recruitment processes ensure that all staff are well qualified, have appropriate expertise and benefit from up-to-date guidance and professional development." Staffing is always going to be a concern when a school is operating at affordable fees - Founders seems to be showing that the right mix of staff in terms of background, experience and salaries can provide quality of education without delivering frills. And with staff turnover at a low 12% compared with a UAE average of 20-22% in international schools, it seems that GFS teachers also appreciate their workplace.

In March 2021, GFS was recognised by Optimus Education, a UK-based organisation that awards, supports and accredits schools for outstanding non-curricular provision. The awards are created in a way that schools must follow a framework of KPIs in order to successfully achieve the award and then remain accredited for a following three years.

GFS first started their association with the Optimus Education awards in September of 2018 by taking on three of the awards; Leading Parent Partnership Award (LPPA), SEND Inclusion Award (SENDIA), and Wellbeing Award for Schools (WAS). After only a year, the school then completed and was accredited for all three awards. At the same time, they then took on the other two awards; Best Practice with Teaching Assistants Award (BPTAA), and Excellence in Pupil Development Award (EPDA), both were then completed and accredited in March 2021.

Matthew Burfield, Principal and CEO of GEMS Founders School, Dubai said:

"Using the Optimus Education Awards as a framework to drive school improvement has been incredibly important in our journey at GEMS Founders School, Dubai (GFS) to Outstanding. We have been able to consider critical areas that go beyond any inspection framework but also feed into the standards for both DSIB and BSO. The framework has given us a clear strategy of improvement and the evidence gathering tools have helped sharpen our attention to meet the standards and in all cases go beyond."

What about the curriculum?

As is evident, GFS follows the National Curriculum for England , with the EYFS curriculum in the Foundation stage, and IGCSE, AS and A Levels through the Oxford AQA and Cambridge International Examination Boards in Years 10 and 11, and 12 and 13 respectively.

As a sign of its commitment to offer a genuine UK curriculum experience, the school was inspected by the British Schools Overseas accreditation organisation in 2019 and was awarded a Good rating. 

GFS is a High Performance Learning (HPL) school, which means it aims to follow the philosophy of removing all barriers and limits to students learning and aspirations. Lessons are not limited to just achieving an objective but moving beyond in their learning and constantly looking to challenge themselves both academically and personally to be an exceptional all-rounder.

GFS offers a broad range of twenty-three courses at I/GCSE level. These include compulsory subjects such as English Language (or as a Second Language), English Literature, Mathematics (core or extended) and at least one of the two Science routes, as well as other subjects placed in five different option blocks. IGCSE options include Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Arabic as a First Language, Arabic as a Foreign Language, French, Spanish, Economics, Accounting, Business, Computer Science, Geography, History, Psychology, Sociology, Art and Design, Music and  Physical Education.

Year 10 and 11 core subjects also include Ministry of Education Arabic (only in Year 10 for non-Arab students), Islamic (Muslim students only), Prep (non-Muslim students only), Moral Education (non IGCSE), UAE Social Studies (non IGCSE), Physical Activity and Wellbeing (non IGCSE).

This is similar at A Level where students choose from subjects in five option blocks. A Level subjects include English Literature, English Language, French, Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Accounting, Business, Computer Science, Economics, Geography, History, Psychology, Sociology, Art and Design, Music and Physical Education. GFS also offers the Independent Project Qualification (IPQ) as an optional challenge for students.

One clear sign that GEMS Founders Dubai does not intend to compromise on the standards it has set for its students or intends for them to achieve are the minimum requirements which students are required to meet.

Students must attain a minimum of 5 IGCSE/GCSE’s at grades A*- C (9 - 4) including English and mathematics to be able to stay on for Sixth Form studies. Students must attain A*- B (7 or above in new GCSE grading structure) in the subjects that they intend to study at International AS/A Level.

The school also advised that Linear A Levels will be the preferred examination route for GFS students from the 2021-2022 academic year. Students who choose Art and Design (AQA) must follow the linear route.

The significance of this should not be overlooked.  Whilst international A Level qualifications permit students to study their subjects in two stages effectively, with examinations at the end of Year 12 and again at the end of Year 13 - and to resit the Year 12 examinations to improve their overall grades if necessary - the Linear route requires that students sit A Levels only at the end of the two year period only.  This is therefore a more demanding route for students to take. 

There is a specific focus throughout the school on mindfulness and on 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. Russian and Japanese have already been added. 

GFS has an appointed Career Guidance Counsellor who works closely with students from Year 9 upwards. The school believes the process for university preparation should begin in Key Stage 3 and encourages students to be mindful of the choices they will have to make throughout their academic lives. Students also have mentors from the middle and Senior Leadership who they are able to discuss career related questions with. Two other resources available to students are Unifrog and the GEMS College & Career Counselling Network.

The school offers a broad range of Extra-curricular activities, although the majority are payable. Extra curricular activities are provided by external providers ESM and Delta. GFS also provides free after school activities once a week during terms one and two.  In term 3, activities include Football, Basketball, Tennis, Rhythmic Gymnastics, Ballet, Robotics & 3D designing, Hip Hop Dance, Social and Emotional skills, Home of Chess, and Nutty Scientists and Experiment.  Approximately 900 children participate in paid after-school activities and the range of teacher led activities.

What about support for Students of Determination and those with Gifts and Talents?

Inclusion is a very big part of GEMS Founders School, Dubai and so the Inclusion department, who support Students of Determination, includes four qualified SEN leaders, 8 SEN teachers and 30+ Learning Support Assistants. In addition to this there is also a partnership with Small Steps who are a specialist ABA provider who are based within the school. Small Steps caters for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who require a higher level of support to fully meet their individual needs.

GFS was the first school in the Middle East to achieve the SEND Inclusion Award from the UK accreditor Optimus Education which shows the provision is equivalent to an Outstanding SEN provision in a UK school.

One of the provisions on offer is Flourish. Flourish is for those requiring significant support for Maths and/or English in Year 3 – Year 8. The students attend Flourish twice a day and this offers them the opportunity to work in a smaller classroom environment every day with their SEN teacher in two of the core subjects. The curriculum in Flourish still follows the topics and themes of the year group; however it is adapted to be more functional with a hands on approach to learning wherever possible. The Flourish classes also gives students the opportunity to meet others and to form friendships to support their social and communication skills within a more nurturing environment.

GFS also offers support to those students who require help outside of the curriculum and this usually takes place though small group interventions. These groups of up to five students enables students to work on their IEP or personal goals with the SEN Teachers. In Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 this is called 'Grow'; however it is offered throughout the school. The interventions can range from fine/gross motor skills development through to emotional self-regulation. The students with IEP’s have personalised provisions in place which is written in collaboration with families and external therapists. In order to achieve the outcomes by the end of the academic year everyone takes responsibility of these being achieved and so it is a real 'team around the child' approach.

Some students have 1:1 support from a Learning Support Assistant (LSA) who are employed by the school and parents pay for this monthly (at a fee of AED 4,050 per month, September – June) and this is the only additional charge for Students of Determination.

Depending on the level of need this might be part time or full time and this would be agreed before enrollment into the school. The aim of the LSA at GFS is to support the child to become as independent as possible.

The long term goal for all the students who are supported by the inclusion department is "to prepare individuals for the world beyond school whether that be further learning, the world of work or to live as independently as possible."

The school has a holistic approach to inclusion and so there are key staff including Higher Level Teaching Assistants (HLTAs) who lead on interventions for reading, phonics, maths for those who need a little support to get their learning back on track. This is in addition to all the teachers who adapt and scaffold their teaching to support all students to access their learning.

There are currently 217 students receiving specialist support from the dedicated SEN/Flourish teachers and an additional 280 students who are supported by the class teacher and HLTAs.

Within the Inclusion department there is also support for English Language Learners (ELL) specifically for those whose English is a significant barrier to their learning. The Head of ELL assesses the students and then places them on the provision they require. The support ranges from in class support (no fee) to weekly pull out sessions (AED 525 per month, September - June) and the criteria for enrollment is based on the age. The expectation of English increases the closer a child is to the exam years to ensure students are given the best opportunity to achieve their formal examinations by the time they are in Year 11. There are currently 30 students getting additional paid support and an additional 42 who are supported in class.

The number continues to grow as students discover new talents through new experiences offered from the school; there are now 225 Gifted &Talented students in the school. Every leader in the school plays a part in the provision of G&T students. This can range from the After School Activities Coordinator to the Head of Innovation who organise additional trips and activities; through to the Head of Maths and Head of PE who ensure there is challenge and opportunities to compete.

GFS says that "GEMS Founders School continues to invest and develop the provision in place and hopes that as the current cohort in Flourish grows through the school that there will be an alternative pathway to prepare students for the world of work, independent living and further opportunities for individuals to succeed and reach their full potential".

It seem that the KHDA's DSIB inspectors are also impressed by the provision and commitment at GFS.   

According to the 2019-20 KHDA inspection report, "Governors and senior leaders communicate a highly inclusive school ethos which is welcoming to students of determination. Significant investment in specialist staff enhances the effectiveness of the department. Inclusion leaders are well qualified and skilled. They are successful in promoting the best practices of inclusion." 

What about academic achievement?

We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com are always among the first to say that the quality of education provided by a school cannot be judged on exam results alone.  However, there is no doubt that they are an important criterion and one to which we believe parents should have transparent access.

GFS did reveal the the results of the CAT4, PASS and Progress Tests which are used to internationally benchmark learners and "ensure provision is continuously reviewed, and adapted in light of the outcomes". Students also participate in Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). The first TIMSS results demonstrated the learners at GFS achieved significantly higher than the TIMSS Centre Point Score with Year 9 exceeding the school target in both Mathematics and Science.

Disappointingly, GFS has not fully published its first set of IGCSE  and A Level results - something of a shame since in not providing this information, there was a (hopefully) unwarranted suggestion that they were not as positive as had been hoped for.  To be fair, the cancellation of exams as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic in 2020 meant that results were based on grades calculated by the school's own staff.

However, that changed in 2021, and we were delighted to see the results published in large part for 2022, when students returned to full examinations after the pandemic for the first time.

At A Level, GFS had 94 students sit a total of 254 examinations.   7% of exam entries were awarded A*, whilst 25% received A*-A and 41% received an A*-B grade.

At I/GCSE, a cohort of 226 students entered 1,695 examinations. 9% of entries were awarded Grade 9, whilst 20% achieved A* (Grades 9-8), 35% were awarded A*-A (Grades 9-7) and 82% received A*-C  (Grades 9-4).

In 2021, GFS provided full details of its A Level and I/GCSE results which were again affected by the Covid 19 pandemic and based on Centre Assessed Grades.

A Level results were definitely outcomes of which the school can be proud! Its second cohort of  34 students were entered for a total of 99 examinations. Of these exam entries, 16.2% achieved the highest A* award, with 40.4% receiving A*-A grades and almost two-thirds  64.6% receiving A*-B grades.  Unfortunately, the school did not reveal further information in terms of those awarded A*-C or A*-E (or indeed the overall pass rate).  We hope that this is something they will have the confidence to do for 2022.

I/GCSE results showed that a sizeable cohort of 221 students were entered for 1,545 examinations.  A substantial 24.1% achieved the top grade of A*, with 40% of entries being awarded A*-A grades,  69.1% of entries being awarded A*-B, and 82.7% being awarded A*-C pass grades.

The school's website notes that for 2020:"We received our first full set of International GCSE and International A level results in 2020. Our early entry results for 2019 showed that we challenged our children to the highest level. 80% of our children entered for IGCSE Mathematics achieved a grade 9 (equivalent to an A*) In AS English Literature, 100% of those entered were awarded either an A or B grade. Subsequently, our results have continued to get stronger and stronger.".  

Additional results included 100% of IGCSE  grades achieved across all subjects were awarded A*-C (9-5) - a pass level.  Furthermore, 70%  of grades were awarded at A*-A (9-7) and 66% of  Modern Foreign Languages entries achieved A*. For AS, 21% of entries received an A, 49% of entries were awarded A-B, and 89% of Psychology entries were awarded A-C. It should be borne in mind that early entries are usually taken by students who are outperforming the majority, and the expectation would therefore be of higher overall grades.

The 2020 results which would have included all students (with early entry results added) resulted in November 2020 awards of 93% of students achieving Grade 9 in Mathematics, 100% of students achieving Grade 9 in English, 70% of students achieving Grades 9-5 in Science, 100% of students achieving A* in Further Maths, Accounting and French, and 100% of students achieving Grades A-C in Arabic and Geography.

August 2020 A Level overall entries resulted in 35% of grades at A*-A and 56% A*-B. Students achieved 100% A*-B in English Literature, 63% A*-B in Maths, 47% A*-B in Science, and 80% A*-B in Psychology.

Matthew Burfield in a statement said: “GEMS Founders School, Dubai, celebrated its first full set of IGCSE/GCSE results this year and we are so pleased to announce an outstanding set of results. We are so proud of our students and even more so because our top 10 achievers all were founding students when we opened in 2016. These children took a risk to come to GFS in 2016 with no prior results and have proven that it was indeed the right choice, for us and them. Well done to all of our students, their teachers and their families.”

This limited results information does not provide full disclosure across all subjects, with details of exam entries and results broken down into the range of bands usually included, so that a full overview of achievement can be seen, something that we at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com encourage. With a return to a more normal exam process for 2022, we hope that more detailed information will be provided.

The school also says that students of GFS have been finalists and winners in national competitions in music and art. 

What about the facilities?

The school may not have the most extensive (and 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, specialist art rooms and music rooms, IT and science labs and a 3D printer equipped Mac Lab, as well as primary and secondary libraries and a canteen offering hot meals. GEMS Founders also offers a large multipurpose hall used as a gymnasium, but fully fitted with a stage, retractable seating, lighting and sound. 

The KHDA inspection report for 2019-20 notes that: "High-quality school facilities and resources provide a stimulating environment for high-level learning, sport and recreation. The facilities and resources for the early years are excellent, and a well-stocked collection of books in Arabic is increasingly used by students".

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 astro-turfed and can be utilised as outdoor eating and play areas, as well as for 5-a-side football and cricket.

With the expansion of GFS to take over the facilities of the previous GEMS Al Barsha School for Boys, additional facilities have become available. At its launch, facilities at the neighbouring school included spacious teaching areas with interactive whiteboards/LED displays in every classroom, a fully-resourced bilingual library, Science and ICT Laboratories, a Creative and Visual Art Studio, Performing and Art Productions studios for Music, Drama and Dance, a Performance Theatre - a multi-function space designed for music and drama productions, school assemblies, meetings and exhibitions - and dedicated prayer Rooms.  Given the price point of GFS, it can be anticipated that some of these facilities may well be re-purposed.

In addition to indoor and outdoor learning and play areas, sports facilities include indoor and outdoor multi-purpose facilities and playing fields. There is also a 25 metre six lane swimming pool, and a dedicated learner pool.  WhichSchoolAdvisor.com understands that the operations and use of the swimming pools will be outsourced to one or more third parties, so that the costs are not borne by the school.  Whilst GEMS Founders students may have access to the facilities, they will almost certainly involve extra-curricular access with the payment of an appropriate fee. 

What the inspectors say

Having achieved a Good rating on its first KHDA inspection - an achievement of which GEMS Founders was justifiably proud, the school consolidated its inspection rating in 2019-20 with a second overall Good rating.  GFS was fortunate to have been one of the schools inspected prior to the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic which resulted in the cancellation of all inspections from February 2020.  The most recent KHDA inspection, which took place in February 2023, again rated the school as Good.

In addition to the KHDA inspections, GEMS Founders has also participated in two inspections by British Schools Overseas in 2022 - which aims to assess schools based on the criteria used by the UK Government - and was rated Outstanding in the 2022 inspection. The report can be found here.  GFS is also accredited by British Schools of the Middle East (BSME) and COBIS (the Council of British International Schools). 

As is so often the case, the overall rating for GFS in no way represents the individual improvements in ratings for the performance measures across all areas of the school. Over 40 ratings have improved, and 30 of these are improvements to Very Good.

In terms of the strengths of GFS, the inspection team found these to be:

  • The very strong leadership of the principal and the executive leadership team
  • The inclusive ethos and focus on raising students’ achievements
  • Curriculum design, implementation, and adaptation
  • The school's rigorous arrangements for ensuring health and safety and safeguarding of students
  • The very effective teaching and learning for students of determination
  • The high profile of wellbeing and its positive impact on students’ outcomes.

As far as areas for improvement are concerned, GFS should:

  • Improve students’ learning skills by providing high-quality training for all staff, so that they create opportunities for students to work collaboratively and develop their skills of enquiry, independence, and research.
  • Improve the rate of progress for students in Islamic Education and Arabic, paying particular attention to the use of standard Arabic in lessons.
  • Ensure that the quality of teaching and learning is consistent across all phases through greater accountability in Secondary.
If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.

The Buzz

The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Parent Survey has received a significant number of responses. 90% of respondents feel that their children enjoy going to school and have at least quite a strong sense of belonging. The majority of parents (at least 75%) are completely satisfied with the quality of education provided by GFS, with the level of feedback provided and with the disciplinary policy, though a quarter of respondents also felt that additional external tuition for their children is necessary. 

For an issue that is usually so contentious, GFS does remarkably well to have over 70% of parents fully agree that fees do represent value for money, and whilst a further 25% partially agree, only 3% disagree with this view.  It's perhaps, therefore, unsurprising that an overwhelming 86% of parents would recommend the school.

If you are a parent, teacher or student at GEMS Founders School Al Barsha and would like to share your experience and opinions with other potential members of your community, please take part in our survey here..

In a new initiative from the KHDA in 2022-23, the DSIB inspectors also evaluated schools on the Quality of Wellbeing Provision and Outcome. ,

The inspection team found that: The quality of wellbeing provision and outcome is at a high level. 

They found that:

  • Wellbeing is central to the school’s vision and improvement plan. The school analyses a wealth of wellbeing data to support learners to develop the culture of kindness, happiness and involvement. Wellbeing is built into policy and practice. Through consultation with the Local Advisory Board (LAB), six clear commitments have been made to improve all aspects of student, staff, and stakeholder wellbeing. Engagement in wellbeing clubs and in-house activities helps students to develop their self-awareness. The school understands the need to ensure sufficiently strong ongoing development and staff to drive its vision of wellbeing.
  • The school adopts a systematic approach to ensure that caring for students is at the forefront of its activities. Parental engagement is fundamental in ensuring improvements in students’ wellbeing. Staff enrichment and wellbeing sessions, together with targeted professional development, promote physical, social, and mental wellbeing. The students’ leadership programme and the parents’ association provide a platform to receive feedback on a wide range of wellbeing matters. Some students state that more opportunities to access support for their wellbeing would be helpful.
  • The student welfare and sustainability councils promote initiatives across the whole school community. A broad range of extra-curricular programmes, volunteering and enrichment activities develops students’ sense of pride and belonging. The character education programme supports students to explore who they are, and who they want to be. Parental engagement workshops raise awareness of the importance of healthy lifestyles. Data from the Pupil Attitudes to Self and School (PASS) survey show that students feel safe, valued, and engaged in the life of the school.

Our View

There is no doubt that GEMS took a significant step into the unknown with the launch of GEMS Founders Dubai - filling a gap for good quality British curriculum education with native English speakers in a well-resourced facility at an affordable fee level.  They clearly used their experience of large-scale affordable schools that had long been part of the portfolio for mainly Indian families seeking a British curriculum, at schools such as Winchester School Jebel Ali and Cambridge International School.

An earlier attempt to introduce the same model with GEMS Metropole School has never quite achieved the same level of popularity as GFS, in part because of its higher fees due to the inclusion of a higher standard of facilities (including swimming pools!). However, with the decision not to add a third Founders school, GEMS Metropole School Al Waha opens in September 2023 and may go some way to alleviating the waiting lists at GEMS Founders Dubai for families with more flexible budgets.

It would seem that in terms of a model that includes mainly UK leadership supported by less expensive teachers from other countries as well as a mix of experience, it has been possible to achieve the promise of good quality at an affordable price delivered by teachers trained to deliver the curriculum well. Interestingly, recent changes of leadership at Cambridge International and GEMS Winchester School (relocated to Dubailand from Oud Metha) have followed in the footsteps of GEMS Founders in terms of leadership staff. 

And if proof of the pudding were needed of the obvious success of the GEMS Founders brand, this can be seen in the opening of the second Founders school in Al Mizhar in September 2018, which has followed closely in the footsteps of GFS. GEMS cannot be faulted for reading the market and delivering the product that many parents so obviously wanted and clearly appreciate.

When asked to tell the WhichSchoolAdvisor team what made GEMS Founders School, Dubai stand out from other schools, we were told that;

"GFS has transformed the educational landscape of the UAE. We have shown that it is possible to offer a rich English curriculum with fantastic teachers at an affordable fee point. We have achieved what many could not in our fee bracket by achieving a Good judgement in our first KHDA inspection, gaining our first outstanding parameters in our second one and securing 5 outstanding judgements in our British Schools Overseas inspection. Our aim is now towards Very Good and Outstanding and with our student outcomes improving constantly this is well within reach. GFS has grown exponentially and will continue to Grow, Flourish and Succeed".

We would fully expect GFS to continue to attract families for whom the price point and curriculum work. We believe that the school will not be complacent now that it has shown that it can make the model work to a Good standard.  And we do very much hope that GFS will be transparent in terms of levels of academic achievement through publication of its results going forward. This will ensure that parents will be able to see for themselves whether the promise is really being delivered.

What about the fees?

Fees range from AED 23 129 for FS1 to AED 28,386 through to Year 6,  AED 30,488 for Years 7 to 9, AED 32,591 in Years 10  and 11, and AED 34,693 in Years 12 and 13. These are very gentle increases 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. 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 price point clearly has made the school accessible to a wide demographic. 

This school is in a Best School by parents ranking

GEMS Founders School Dubai is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:

If you are the owner or the principal of the school and note any inaccuracies, or would like to update data, you can now open an account with us. You will also be able to add admissions availability per year group, and advertise current job vacancies. This is a free service. Please help us keep prospective parents up to date with your latest information.

Are you looking for a place for your child, and want help from our school consultants? If so, click on the link below, and we will forward your request for information to the school or schools of the same type that we are confident have availability. This is a free service for our readers. Request Information

Latest UAE articles

Glendale: Building a Strong Community from Day 1

Planning and launching a new international school is an exciting yet challenging task &nda…

Choosing A School

A Look Inside the New Redwood Montessori Al Furjan

With the huge influx of families moving into the Al Furjan residential community in recent…


Record Number of Students Get University Place Via Clearing

A record number of UK 18-year-olds have secured a place at a UK university using Clearing.…

School Performance

Top UK Boarding Schools for A Level Results

The top five boarding schools in the UK for A Levels results in 2023 are Oxford Internatio…


New Parents & Kids Book Club Launches This Week

Looking for a monthly book club for you and your little ones to attend together? Then look…

Choosing A School

Is It Too Late to Find an FS1 School Space?

The start of the new school year has come and gone, the youngest children in FS1 and Pre-K…


Why Should I Join My School’s Parent Association?

In the UAE, most private schools will have an active parent association or group. These de…

Best School

Inside Redwood Montessori Al Bateen

Conveniently situated in the commercial and residential area of Al Bateen, Abu Dhabi, is R…

0 Schools Selected
keyboard_arrow_down keyboard_arrow_up
Your selection Clear All