GEMS Jumeirah Primary School is a co-educational primary school (ages 3 to 11, FS1 to Year 6) which is located in Al Safa, Dubai. The School was first established in 1996 and is part of the GEMS Education group. It has been rated Outstanding by the KHDA for nine years in a row.
The story so far...
GEMS Jumeirah Primary School (JPS) was established in 1996 in a villa in the Al Safa area with a cohort of just 30 students - the first UK curriculum school opened by GEMS Education - and recently celebrated its Silver Jubilee (25 years) with a 'Street Party' in the style of 1990's and a digital-free day.
Nowadays, JPS offers education to 1,470 students - sizable for a primary, which can be off-putting for some parents used to smaller schools. However, the school building (set over two floors) and the organisation of the classes and year groups within it, mean that there is little sense of its size. Both the Foundation Stage, with its own separate block to the left of the main building, and substantial separated outdoor play areas, together with Years 1 and 2, located to the rear share the ground floor of the building. Years 3 to 6 are located on separate corridors upstairs.
Students of different age groups rarely cross with each other and playgrounds are carefully separated. The school itself is described as "warm and caring" and "very inclusive" by parents of students who attend. JPS itself says it has a 'small school atmosphere'.
Learn more about the "feel" and facilities at JPS from our 2019 updated visit Experience here
For 2018-19 the school has been ranked Outstanding by Dubai's Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) for the ninth year running - a near record, overtaken only by Kings School Dubai which has achieved the Outstanding rating since the first inspection round. JPS is also accredited by British Schools Overseas (BSO) and is a BSME and COBIS member.
You can read the latest BSO Inspection report - which is based on the OFSTED inspection process in the UK - here.
Just over one quarter (27%) of students are British, although this is no Little England - JPS represents pure multi-cultural Dubai with some 70 countries represented in total.
Students are supported by 99 (predominantly-British) full time teachers and almost as many (87) teaching assistants. Staff appear to be happy with their employment; at 15% in the last academic year, and 10% in the year prior to that, teacher turnover is well below the Dubai average of 20-22%. Average class sizes are in the range of 22 (Foundation Stage) to 27 (years 1-6, and at a maximum approved level); one of the few concerns raised by parents in previous KHDA pre-inspection surveys. However, the teacher:student ratio at 1:15 has changed little in recent years and appears to ensure more than adequate individual attention for each child.
This is especially important in a school as inclusive as JPS - approximately 104 students are currently identified as Students of Determination with SEND requirements.
JPS has always been a Pioneer in this field, launching the first Achievement Centre within the GEMS group, and is rated Outstanding by the KHDA inspection team in this particular context - one of a handful of schools to have achieved the highest rating.
The Achievement Centre at JPS provides support to a wide range of students for a broad range of additional learning needs. These include Dyslexia and Dyscalculia in addition to a range of mild to moderate learning or developmental challenges and staff include Speech and Language and Occupational Therapists, and three Psychologists whose main focus is on the well-being of students, parents and staff. Initiatives in which they have been involved include Healthy Eating, Recycling, Screentime, Kindness and Positive Family relationships. One parent with whom we met, talked about the 'culture of kindness' that pervades the school, and this is particularly obvious with students being protective and taking particular care of her son with Downs Syndrome who attends JPS.
This parent also commented that this is a school with 1,500 children, "but every child is valued."
What about the curriculum?
GEMS Jumeirah Primary School broadly follows the National Curriculum for England from Foundation Stage 1 to Year 6. The school says that it offers "a bespoke curriculum focusing on depth of understanding to prepare its international family of learners for success in an ever-evolving future". Key knowledge, skills and understanding are identified that underpin success in education, employment, lifelong learning and personal development, and are embedded in planning and taught alongside the Ministry of Education’s UAE Social Studies and Moral Education programmes and the JPS Wellbeing curriculum.
JPS has more recently adopted a programme developed by a leading Educationalist - Professor Deborah Eyre - on High Performance Learning which is designed to provide a platform for teaching and learning practice, questioning selectivity, enabling students to recognise the key attributes required for success and "teaching children how to be bright". JPS received full accreditation for the programme at the end of the 2018-19 academic year. Further information can be found here.
The ‘Creative Curriculum’ is designed to excite children about learning and to provide relevant and meaningful learning experiences. JPS provides a vibrant, inclusive and creative learning environment that encourages challenge, curiosity and choice - and is also designed to be fun. In speaking with the Senior Management Team at JPS, they informed WhichSchoolAdvisor.com that there is a particular focus on the curriculum, including not only creativity, but also flexibility and collaboration - with a strong emphasis on collaborative skills designed to make the most of softer human skills.
In the Foundation Stage, children learn through structured play planned around the seven interconnected areas of learning and development of the EYFS framework, which is based on a practical, hands-on approach and focuses on Communication and Language, Physical Development, Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Literacy, Mathematics, Understanding the World, and Expressive Arts and Design. Children in FS2 (of which there are eight classes) participate in Arabic, Library, Swimming and PE on a weekly basis.
The curriculum for the Primary Phase is designed to be lively and engaging and to meet the needs of all students, in an inclusive environment. JPS aims "to develop creative, confident and inquisitive learners, who are ready to progress onto the next stage of learning by the end of the Primary Phase".
The ethos of JPS is very much around the belief that 'everyone can be great' and 'everyone is allowed to be themselves'.
In line with the UAE National Agenda, there is a strong focus on reading and innovation. Students in Years 3 to 6 use the library on a twice weekly basis. They participate in on-line quizzes to ensure that they have understood their books. The library offers a Reading Club and Reading Dogs visit the school on a weekly basis.
The annual Spring Fair, which attracts 6,000 visitors, offers students the opportunity to develop their own schemes to raise funds. Students submit business plans for the development and sale of products, and 5% of the proceeds are contributed to the school charity which, todate, has enabled JPS to support schools in Nepal, Malawi and Cambodia, and refugees in Jordan.
Qualified subject specialists teach Physical Education and Swimming, Music, Arabic and Islamic (to Muslim students), in designated, well-resourced facilities. Key Stage 2 students (Years 3 to 6) have access to a Science Lab and Steam Room where they are able to development their skills through Robotics. A specialist French teacher teaches the Modern Foreign Language programme in Key Stage 2 and additional provision is made for native French speakers in Key Stage 1. Students in Years 4 to 6 also visit Street 19 sister school, Jumeirah College weekly to take advantage of the Secondary Science facilities. Jumeirah College also hosts a weekly after-school activity - Science in Life - for JPS students.
JPS students are also encouraged to show off their musical talents with a monthly Showtime, where students volunteer to perform during the early departure on Thursdays. There is also a regular Music Assembly, and JPS students have performed at the Dubai Opera with the Shanghai Opera and during the run of Evita.
JPS does have a homework policy which currently involves one piece of homework per week, with a week in which to complete it. However, we are told that this policy is currently under review taking into account the transition of most students from JPS to Jumeirah College.
We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com love the extensive and varied extra-curricular activities on offer, such as French club, Volunteering in the Community, Jewellery Making, French Boules, Mindfulness & Yoga, Fun Fitness, Recorder, Drama & Debate, Swim Squad, Athletics, Soft-tipped Darts, Table Tennis, Embroidery, Sketching, Rugby, Basketball, Archery, Irish Dance, Choir, Ukulele, Netball, Football, Cricket, Creative Craft, Philosophy, Fashion Design, Chess and Game Design.
JPS is developing increasingly close links with its sister school, GEMS Jumeirah College (JC), located near-by. The College offers resources such as Science Technicians to the Primary School, whilst JC students benefit from mentoring opportunities at JPS. The majority of students go on from JPS to JC for Secondary education - another Outstanding-rated, and highly-sought after, Secondary school. The Principal at Jumeirah College maintains that the best way to ensure that a child is accepted at his school, is to send him or her to JPS.
What about academic achievement?
It is rare for Primary schools to provide information about academic performance, given that this data is largely based on internal assessments. However, JPS does include information related to its students' performance in Key Stage 2 SAT assessments on their website, though this is not entirely up to date.
The 2016 Key Stage 2 assessments were the first which assessed the new, more challenging national curriculum which was introduced in 2014. New tests have been introduced to reflect the revised curriculum and results are no longer reported as levels, and each pupil will now receive their test results as a scaled score. However, the last results published by JPS show that for Reading, 90% of students achieved the Expected Standard, and 50% achieved the Higher Standard (compared with UK averages of 71% and 25% respectively). For Maths, 93% of JPS students achieved the Expected Standard (compared with a UK average of 75%), and 37% achieved the Higher Standard (compared with the UK average of 23%).
JPS students also regularly participate in international bench-marking and cognitive tests including TIMMS, PIRLS, and CAT4. Maths, Science and Reading results all exceeded international averages and almost all students exceed their potential.
As mentioned earlier, more recently, JPS has joined its sister school, Jumeirah College, in the High Performance Learning programme developed by Professor Deborah Eyre, who, in 2010, published a policy paper for the independent Think Tank Policy Exchange, in which she suggested that evidence from neuro-science and psychology demonstrated conclusively that the brain is "exquisitely plastic" and that individuals can grow their intelligence. Further information can be found here.
What about the leadership?
As repeatedly mentioned by the Director General of the KHDA, Dr. Abdulla Al Karam, the single most important influence on school performance is its leadership. JPS is quite remarkable in this context for a number of reasons.
One of these is the prevalence of women in the SLT, most of whom have been with JPS for between four and ten years. In a city where average staff turnover is between 20-25% in international schools and most staff are employed on two to three year contracts, this level of stability is a rare achievement. In many cases (including Principal Rachel Higgins), the senior staff's own children attend the school - meaning there is a very personal interest in doing the right thing.
Find out more about the senior staff's views on their school by reading our updated Experience visit here.
The senior team described JPS as a "well-oiled machine" which is managed through a process of continuous improvement. The leadership team is encouraged to take on initiatives, research, test and implement, with resources provided to ensure that initiatives receive the support they need to succeed.
What about the facilities?
Despite the fact that JPS is one of the older schools within the GEMS group and does not have the more modern appearance of many of the new builds, facilities at JPS are very impressive. The school is effectively formed in a double-storey H shape with the separate Foundation Stage extension to the side of the main building. Classrooms are arranged by Year group along the corridors of the building, interspersed with specialist teaching rooms and resources including a well-stocked library, Music Rooms, a Science Lab, a Mac Suite and a STEAM Room which enhance the curriculum delivery of subjects by classroom teachers. In addition, the school has two gardens and four age-appropriate playgrounds.
Other facilities include a prayer room, a multi-purpose Main Hall, a large, temperature-controlled Sports Hall, a fully shaded 25-metre swimming pool and infant learning pool, and an all-weather synthetic turf pitch. Behind the Sports Hall - which is a relatively recent addition - students have access to a Long Jump area, and a Parcours area and Tennis Courts are also provided.
What the inspectors say
The school's 2018-19 KHDA report serves only to reconfirm that high standards of JPS in the view of the Inspection team. Their comments in relation to the Leadership and Management of the school serve only to underpin its Outstanding rating. "Inspirational leadership is at the heart of the school's success. The intention is to go 'beyond outstanding', and all staff and students are encouraged to be creative and innovative in pursuit of this aim".
Inspectors noted that the strengths of the school are:
Indeed, with almost every key indicator found once again to be Outstanding across the key criteria measured by the inspection team, it might seem that there is not much more for JPS to do to improve. However, like most international schools, its Achilles Heel remains the progress and attainment of students in Arabic as a first language - rated Acceptable - though Arabic as a second language and Islamic Studies have now been rated Good for both progress and attainment.
Overall, although the report includes recommendations for development across all key criteria, the recommendations for improvement are limited to Arabic and Islamic Studies, and to the lack of recognition by a small minority of teachers, quickly enough, of the ability of individual children to move on to more challenging tasks.
If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly recommend this - you can find it here.
Unsurprisingly, the KHDA pre-inspection survey of parents was undertaken by 355 parents, who were "overwhelmingly positive with every aspect of the school". Among other key comments, they feel "there is a genuine partnership between home and the school".
Based on the WhichSchoolAdvisor School Survey, JPS is a school an overwhelming majority of parents would recommend to others. And whilst no one likes fees, it is rare to find a parent that feels JPS does not deliver a quality service in return. Parents, in general, rate highly the education the school offers their child, and satisfaction with academic attainment is significantly higher than average.
In common with our usual arrangements to visit schools, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com requested JPS to invite parents, students and teachers to participate in our School Survey. Unfortunately, it was not possible to arrange this.
If you are a parent or teacher at GEMS Jumeirah Primary School, please share your opinion by completing our survey here.
Fees for the school are mid-range for a premium, high achieving school, starting at AED 40,865 per annum for Foundation Stage 1, rising quickly to AED 51,511 from FS2 through to Year 6.
As mentioned earlier, a final very strong feature of JPS is that it has priority placement at the very popular and sought-after GEMS Jumeirah College. Applications to JC are required and an entrance examination taken, however "the majority of the children from GEMS Jumeirah Primary School do accept places at GEMS Jumeirah College".
Note: JPS is, like many tier one primaries, almost at capacity. However, we have been informed that there are places at various year groups throughout the school, and this does mean that an application is worthwhile. Turnover over the summer holidays, and indeed, throughout the year, means that places can and do become available at short notice.
GEMS Jumeirah Primary School is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:
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