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.
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 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 1,450 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 visit Experience here
For 2022-23 academic year the school was ranked Outstanding by Dubai's Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) for the eleventh time, 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 of students are British, although this is no Little England - JPS represents pure multi-cultural Dubai with some 70 countries represented in total. The school has a growing cohort of Emirati students with 55 currently enrolled.
The school is led by Rachel Higgins, who started her career at JPS in August 2003! Rachel celebrated her 20th anniversary at the school in the current academic year. She has been Principal at JPS since 2016 and must be among the longest serving UK curriculum school leaders in the city.
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 eight and fifiteen 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.
In late 2022, Mrs. Higgins was appointed CEO of the Jumeirah Schools, taking over responsibility for GEMS Jumeirah College in addition to JPS. This can only serve to strengthen the ties between the two - creating from a management perspective, an all-through school environment.
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.
Find out more about the senior staff's views on their school by reading our updated Experience visit here.
Students are supported by 101 (predominantly-British) full time teachers and almost as many (87) teaching assistants. Staff appear to be happy with their employment; at 10% in the last academic year, and 15% when the last inspection report was issued, 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 1:14 has changed little in recent years (improving from 1:15) and appears to ensure more than adequate individual attention for each child.
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 also 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 has long sought to develop 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. JPS students are able to participate in enrichment activities at the College including Language, Art and Science from Year 4. The majority of students go on from JPS to JC for Secondary education - another Outstanding-rated, and highly-sought after, Secondary school. Jumeirah College maintains that the best way to ensure that a child is accepted at the school, is to send him or her to JPS.
JPS has long 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 school currently has 144 students who have been identified as Students of Determination with SEND requirements.
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 Guidance counsellors, 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 of a special needs child with whom we met during our visit, talked about the 'culture of kindness' that pervades the school, also commenting that that this is a school with close to 1,500 children, "but every child is valued."
It is rare for Primary schools to provide information about academic performance, given that this data is largely based on internal assessments.
JPS students 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. The school website includes data related to TIMMS achievement in 2019, which indicated that 46 students from the Year 5 cohort achieved a High International Benchmark score of 611 for Science, a commendable 30 points higher than the JPS score in 2015. This was significantly higher than the average of private schools in Dubai, among all curriculum categories.
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.
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.
The school's 2022-23 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.
Leadership is very strong across the school, with the capacity of all leaders very evident. The sense of community, and a culture of all students being able to succeed and to develop their talents is testament to this excellent leadership. Parents and governors are fully supportive partners as the school strives for even more improvements in its drive to go beyond outstanding.
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, rated Good, and attainment, rated Acceptable of students in Arabic as a first language though Arabic as a second language and Islamic Studies have again been rated Good for both progress and attainment.
In terms of recommendations, JPS should:
If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly recommend this in order that you understand the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.
Based on the WhichSchoolAdvisor School Survey, JPS is a school an overwhelming majority of parents would recommend to others. Some 80 parents who have responded to our survey rated the school 4/5 - an 80% positivity rating (lower than we might have expected). Unfortunately, we have not been able to encourage more parents (and teachers) to participate and share their opinions.
Students clearly love going to school and have a strong sense of belonging. Parents are largely satisfied with the academic performance of the school, communication and the school's disciplinary policy and implementation are evidently strengths. 83% of respondents would fully recommend JPS to other parents.
If there is a niggle, it is the usual one of fees. Whilst 52% of parents believe that they do offer value for money, and 37% partially agree with this statement, 11% of respondents disagreed entirely. These views are very much in line with the views of UAE parents as a whole, but perhaps a little surprising, given the clearly very high standard of education that children at JPS are offered.
If you are a parent or teacher at GEMS Jumeirah Primary School, please share your opinions and experience with other potential members of your community by completing our survey here.
In a new initiative by the KHDA for 2022-23, the DSIB inspectors also evaluated the quality of wellbeing provision and outcome, which was found to be at a Very High level (the highest level of evaluation).
The inspection team commented:
Fees for the school are mid-range for a premium, high achieving school, starting at AED 42,091 per annum for Foundation Stage 1, rising quickly to AED 53,056 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, however in 2022, 100% of the children from GEMS Jumeirah Primary School were offered 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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