GEMS International School Al Khail is an all-throough IB World School located off of Al Khail Road that teaches the PYP, MYP, and DP programs with students eventually having the opportunity to graduate with an IB Diploma.
GEMS International School Al Khail has again been rated Good for the third year running in the 2018-19 KHDA inspection process. An abbreviated version of the inspection report can be found under the Inspection report tab. An update of this review will be completed once the full reports have been published.
The story so far...
GEMS International School (GIS) opened in 2013, and is located together with GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail (offering the UK curriculum) and GEMS Millenium School Al Khail (offering the Indian curriculum). GIS is the second all-through IB World School in the GEMS group, and as such, sister to the much longer established GEMS World Academy.
The location of the school, at the edge of Mohammed bin Rashid City, overlooking the Al Khail Road and the Al Qouz industrial area, is not at first particularly appealing, and major traffic issues that affected all three schools initially, did not add to its attraction. However, the access has improved considerably, staggered timings between the schools have been effective and the ease of access both north and south on the Al Khail Road and also towards the east and west from Umm Suqeim Street, has meant that all three schools have attracted significant numbers of students. The location has also enabled the schools to be provided with substantial space, both internally and outside.
GEMS International School Al Khail currently has 1,242 students on its roster, a small increase over the previous year. Approximately 7% of students are identified as students of Determination with SEND requirements. Many students require English Additional Language support. The school is now open from KG to Grade 12, with its first IB Diploma students due to graduate in May 2019. The largest single nationality of students is described by the KHDA report as Arab, but students from a vast range of nationalities attend the school - over 90 in fact - and there is a diverse mix of students and faculty as a result. The majority of the 119 teachers at the school are British, and a further 40+ teaching assistants support students. The teacher to student ratio is currently at 1:10 - a very favourable ratio with a high level of personal support available to students as a result.
As in 2016-17, the teacher turnover rate was on the high side at 28% (compared with 30%). The average for Dubai is in the 20-22% range, and if this trend is to continue, could potentially cause a degree of instability within the school. Having to bring in over a quarter of new staff on an annual basis clearly involves significant investment in time and management from the school leadership and the inevitable orientation and settling in period for new staff.
The staff changes have also been at the most Senior level, with the current Principal having joined the school in August 2017. With a strong background in both the IB and Cambridge International Examinations, he has also served as chairman on a number of national heads' councils, and has a considerable interest in academics.
Read our most recent review visit here!
What about Facilities?
As with all Premium GEMS schools, GIS has access to a considerable range of resources and facilities. The campus includes speciality Science, Technology and Visual and Performing Arts Classrooms, Science and IT Labs, a Black Box Theatre, Outdoor Amphitheatre, a Dance Studio and fully-equipped Music Classrooms. Students have access to libraries and a cafeteria, whilst a Parent Café is available to parents and visitors. Sports facilities include a 6-Lane 25 Meter Swimming Pool and a learner pool, a full-sized football pitch, a multi-purpose Performance and Sports Hall, and outdoor mixed-use games courts for basketball, netball, and tennis. Shaded outdoor spaces are available for older students whilst indoor and outdoor KG play areas are provided separately for the youngest children.
The school offers a wide range of Extra Curricular activities (some 60+ ranging from African Drumming to Zumba academic, creative, IT-focused and sports in-between). The schools' GIS Jaguar Sports squads are also active across a variety of sports including Swimming and Dance in Primary, and Swimming, Basketball and Football in Secondary.
What the inspectors say
The first KHDA review of GEMS International School Al Khail had the school firmly situated as an Acceptable school with most ratings of students' progress and attainment as Good or Acceptable throughout the core subjects across the sections. The PYP section (effectively Primary School) showed the greatest Good attainment and progress in the school, especially in science. Islamic Education and Arabic as a first language were rated as Weak in the MYP and Acceptable in the PYP.
The second inspection by the DSIB team took place one year later and the overall rating for GIS improved to Good - the minimum target for schools set by the KHDA. The third visit by the inspection team took place in February 2018. Again, the inspection team rated GIS as Good.
The report summary notes that "the new principal and school leadership team have a clear vision for the future direction and development of the school. School leaders are supported by an effective governing body. Together they have taken positive action to implement the recommendations made in the previous inspection report. Relationships and support from parents are very good". These are positive comments that indicate a school which has evidently been challenged in improving specific key indicators, but appears to be making progress.
Students’ attainment and progress in English, mathematics and science are mostly good, with progress in KG Maths Very Good, as is progress in PYP English. Three of the eight measures for English have improved compared with a year ago. In common with many Dubai schools, the provision of Arabic and Islamic Education are areas of relative weakness. Attainment and progress in Islamic education and Arabic as an additional language were found to be acceptable (with improvements in MYP progress for both Arabic A and B), as is attainment in mathematics in the MYP. While progress in Arabic as a first language is acceptable, attainment is weak. Overall, the number of ratings that have improved are limited, although students’ learning skills are now very good across the school - an improvement in KG, PYP and MYP.
The inspection team has made very specific and clear recommendations on the action needed to improve students' progress and attainment, stating that school leaders should
Ratings for students' personal and social development and their innovation skills remained unchanged from the previous report, with students' personal development found to be Very Good across the school, and the remaining measures rated Good. Inspectors noted that "students are increasingly involved in projects that enable them to be innovative. They participate in a range of activities of benefit to the school and the wider community".
In terms of the quality of teaching and assessment, the inspection team found that "teaching in all four phases is consistently good. Internal assessment procedures are effective and the school analyses both the internal assessment and external benchmark test data. However, teachers do not use this data systematically either as part of their lesson planning or for monitoring students’ progress". Both internal assessment and external benchmarking are key areas of focus as part of the UAE National Agenda and GIS teachers clearly need to make more effective use of the data available to them.
These actions also tie into the quality of the Curriculum and its adaptation to meet the needs of individual students. Again, the inspectors found that "both curriculum provision and curriculum adaptation are at least good across the school". Improvements were noted in the Curriculum design and implementation in Primary school (improved to Very Good), and with the adaptation of the curriculum in the Secondary school. Provision and support for students with SEND was found to be Very Good, however, not all class teachers have the skills needed to make appropriate adjustments to their teaching to meet the needs of students with additional learning needs. It seems that the inspection team felt that this area should also be given a higher focus, recommending that the school should
Ratings for the Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students remained unchanged. Health and Safety and Child Protection were again found to be Very Good, whilst Care and Support remained Good.
The last key indicator - that of leadership and management - was largely found to be Good by the inspection team. The relationship between the school, parents and the community, and the management, staffing facilities and resources were deemed to have improved to Very Good, whilst Governance has improved to Good. The report notes that the local advisory board includes parent and Emirati representatives. The boards are supportive of the principal and the leadership team. The school has appropriately qualified staff who are well-deployed and receive a range of professional development. There is a wide range of facilities and resources to support teaching and learning.
It seems that GIS has the staffing, facilities, resources and professional external support to enable it to make greater strides towards improving the outcomes for its students. Initial indications from the inspection team suggest that they expect the new leadership to make this happen. It will be interesting to see what further progress has been achieved when the school is inspected in the current academic year.
Parents certainly seem to rate the school relatively highly. Almost 300 responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey and of these, 94% said that they were happy with the quality of education provided by the school. The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com survey found that whilst 60% of parents would recommend the school to others, an emphatic 20% would not. A surprisingly high number also felt that the standard of education was not up to that of their home country. However, only 10% felt dissatisfied with the level of academic performance of the school. And a higher than average percentage of parents also stated that their children enjoyed going to school "a tremendous amount".
Fees for GEMS International School Al Khail starts at AED 47,477 for KG to AED 72,000 for Grade 12. Fees are not inclusive of non-refundable 1,000 AED registration fee and non-refundable 2,500 AED "Entry Fee." The website does not clarify the purpose of the "Entry Fee." Fees are paid twice a year.
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