GEMS Metropole school has without question been one of the most successful new school launches over the last few years, and its parents have not been afraid to tell us what they think. See Parent Opinion for more... The good news: These key stakeholders are by and large very satisfied...
GEMS Metropole School has been rated Acceptable for the third year in the 2018-19 KHDA inspection process. An abbreviated inspection report can be found under the Inspection report tab. An update to this review will be completed once the full report has been published.
The story so far...
GEMS Metropole school, priced as a mid-range plus school, has appealed to parents on more moderate budgets who have clearly been attracted by the new building with excellent facilities (including the swimming pool which adds the “plus” to its designation) and the promise of a solid UK curriculum education by the largest provider in Dubai. Class sizes of 30 (rather than 22-24 offered at the premium schools) do not seem to deter parents and definitely do not phase the staff, many of whom are used to teaching much larger numbers in the UK state sector.
To find out how GEMS Metropole looks and feels, read our Experience report.
There are currently approx. 2,000 students at the school and about to expand by a further 850 at the start of the September term. Two very large new extensions are currently being built – one at the front of the school which will house predominantly younger students and a further block being added at the end and rear of the current school which will house the older students. Currently open until year 11, this extension will make space for years 12 to 13 and include all the additional specialist rooms associated with the senior school and a launch of the Sixth Form, offering A Levels, in September 2018.
Probably the most significant development to affect the school in the past academic year has been the release of its first KHDA Inspection report in which the school was rated Acceptable. This is the minimum rating expected by the KHDA whose goal is to ensure that all schools achieve a rating of at least Good. This assessment has clearly had some significant implications for the school - not least including two changes of Principal since the report was released.
Strengths of the school were found to be the attainment and progress in Science in the secondary phase, students’ positive attitudes and behaviour, the arrangements for keeping students safe and healthy, and the quality of care, guidance and support for students, particularly those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Inspectors also singled out the very positive partnerships with parents and the quality of the premises.
Key areas for improvement revolved around the requirement to ensure that the governing board uses its extensive network, experience, expertise and resources, to provide all of the necessary support to enable school leaders to effectively carry out their work. This was a fairly ringing criticism of GEMS management at a more senior level which appears to have resulted in the addition of a new layer of Senior Management who will oversee British curriculum schools. Inspectors identified the need to improve the quality of leadership by: · ensuring senior leaders use all available information to accurately evaluate the school’s performance and set realistic and aspirational targets for improvement, providing all school leaders with the skills and time to support their teams and to hold them to account for their work.
There was also a requirement to accelerate progress in all subjects in order to raise attainment and a need to improve the quality of teaching in all phases by: providing teachers with accurate assessment information; ensuring they use assessment information to plan lessons that challenge students of all abilities, including those with SEND and those who are more-able; sharing the best practice that exists in each phase.
Concerns around the standard of attainment and progress in Arabic in particular has also evidently prompted the inspectors to note the requirement for the school leadership to thoroughly analyse National Agenda Parameter reports and use the findings to make adjustments to teaching practices, and to review and adapt the curriculum so that it meets the needs of all students and enables them to develop their learning skills and reach their full potential.
The KHDA report rated progress as Acceptable in most subjects with the exception of Science, in the secondary phase, which was rated Good, and in Arabic as a first and additional language, which conversely was rated Weak. Attainment was found to be either Weak or Acceptable apart from in Science in the secondary phase where it was also rated Good. Students' learning skills were deemed to be Acceptable across the school.
Students' personal and social development, and their innovation skills were found to be Good in all phases, with the exception of Foundation Stage (FS) and Primary phase social responsibility and innovation, which were rated Acceptable.
The quality of teaching for effective learning was Acceptable overall. Inspectors noted that there were examples of good and better teaching in all phases. Teachers demonstrated good subject knowledge through their clear and concise explanations and in their answers to students' questions, however, their understanding of how students learn was found to be less secure. The systems for assessing students' attainment and progress were underdeveloped.
The curriculum design, and the extent to which it is adapted to meet the needs of all students, was acceptable. The curriculum was found to be generally broad and balanced across all subjects. However, tasks set did not provide sufficient challenge for the very able students, or purposefully support those who find learning more difficult. The school was found to take its duty of care for students seriously, and the systems for protecting, supporting and caring for students were good. The provision for students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) is Good (and indeed has been extended further through specialist provision - see below).
School leaders were found to share a clear vision for an inclusive, innovative and happy school. They were aware that further improvements were necessary and could be made, especially with regard to the quality of teaching, the analysis of assessment data and their self- evaluation practices. The leadership was found to have established a positive partnership with parents. The quality of the facilities are good. Consequently the Leadership team were deemed to have a good capacity to take the school forward, despite the limited support they have received from the governing board. It is clear that GEMS Metropole has some way to go to meet the KHDA's aspiration for a Good rating across all Dubai schools and it will be interesting to see how much progress has been achieved when the new inspection report for 2017-18 is issued.
One of the most significant new ventures that GEMS Metropole planned to undertake in 2016/17 was the opening of a specialist inclusion unit – Small Steps - which is unique in the GEMS group. GEMS Metropole is currently the only school of this brand and this has enabled the school to try something new which does not commit other GEMS schools of the same brand to follow suit. GEMS Metropole already offers strong SEN provision under the leadership of the Head of Primary, Sara Hedger, who is also the SENCO for the school and a very practiced SEN practitioner. Small Steps is a joint venture with a specialist provider - www.bloomingtree.co.uk/ - from the UK and came about as a result of experience of a close friend of Mrs. Hedger, who had been unable to find a school for her Autistic child in Dubai.
The Small Steps unit is designed to work with no more than 11 students in the age range from 2to 6 years of age. The aim is to provide early intervention that will allow these children to develop to the extent that they will then be able to enter the mainstream of the school by year 2, where places will be guaranteed. The main focus will be on providing support for children with Autism and Speech and Language delay. A team of 13 therapists/lead therapists (all recruited by specialists Bloomingtree in London) will be responsible for working with the children whilst training other staff. Staff will be visited and assessed twice yearly by the team from the UK to ensure that progress on all fronts is as expected. Each child will have a 1-1 Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) programme with the specialist staff. This support will continue at home during holidays, in order to ensure that the programme is continued outside the school environment. Children will participate in mainstream activities where appropriate, as well as spending regular time with the Small Steps team. There is also the possibility that the unit will offer support to older children with Speech and Language issues once the initial set up and establishment of the unit has taken place.
Inevitably the programme will not be cheap; additional fees (with the standard school fees also be added) for Small Steps will be approx. AED 250,000 p.a. These amounts cover an additional one month holiday cover and also two Parent Workshops each term on ABA principles. However, for families whose children may benefit from this very specialised support and have the opportunity to enjoy mainstream education in Dubai, this may well be a price worth paying.
Fees are at the mid-range plus level: for FS1, AED 33,792 to AED 39,000 p.a for AED 45,056 for year 11.)
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