GEMS Metropole School Al Waha is expected to open to students in September 2023, offering the British curriculum. The new school – and the second to carry the Metropole brand - has been set up under the leadership of Naveed Iqbal, Principal of the original Metropole School located in Motor City.
The news of the opening of GEMS Metropole School Al Waha (MTW) has not exactly come as a surprise. In Autumn 2022, the Principal of GEMS Metropole Motor City (MTS), Naveed Iqbal, published a comment on LinkedIn.com about plans for the expansion of the Metropole brand and for the imminent recruitment of staff. Subsequently, GEMS Education confirmed to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com (though not for publication), that the new GEMS Metropole School would open in Al Waha (a couple of kilometers from Motor City).
GEMS must be hoping that it is third time lucky for this site. Originally, back in 2018, it announced the opening of the GEMS School of Digital Futures at the same location, only to put this is on hold permanently in 2020. Conversations, that subsequently took place at the time, suggested that the hugely popular GEMS Founders School Al Barsha would be the next option for the Al Waha site, but when GEMS subsequently decided to merge the GEMS Al Barsha National Schools, one of which occupied the site right next door, Founders expanded to this location instead.
Some observers will be surprised that GEMS has chosen now to expand Metropole rather than Founders, given the high demand for the latter.
However, there are notable differences between the two schools. GEMS Metropole opened (back in 2014) before GEMS Founders, and was marketed as 'mid-range plus' versus Founders' proposition as an 'affordable' school. Key differences between Metropole and Founders were the nationality of teachers: Metropole's proportion of British teachers was substantially higher (95%) with the vast majority coming from the UK or other native English speaking countries - and the facilities of the schools also differ significantly, with Metropole having two swimming pools from the outset. However, the biggest difference lies in the fees - Metropole's fees are around 50% higher than GEMS Founders.
The other difference between the two schools is in their inspection ratings. At the present time, GEMS Founders Al Barsha is rated Good by the KHDA and Outstanding by British Schools Overseas which uses the criteria of the UK Department of Education OFSTED inspections. Meanwhile, GEMS Metropole was rated Acceptable by the KHDA's DSIB inspectors for the fourth time in the 2019-20 inspection round (when it was one of a limited number of schools to be inspected as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic). However, as is so often the case, the overall inspection rating was not a reflection of many aspects of the school.
Substantial improvements had clearly taken place when the last KHDA report was issued with improvements in 37 ratings. Inclusion was found to be a particular strength of the school and achieved a Very Good rating from the inspection team. Given the length of time since the last KHDA inspection, Metropole participated in a BSO inspection in late 2021 where it was rated Good with Outstanding features.
The BSO team noted that the quality of the curriculum provided by the school was outstanding and the quality of teaching and assessment was good overall. Pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development was found to be outstanding, the welfare, health and safety of the pupils and the senior leadership of the school was found to be outstanding, whilst the overall leadership and management of the school was good.
The school is currently open for applications from students in FS1 to Year 8 and, like GEMS Metropole Motor City, the school will offer the English National Curriculum.
We have no doubt that the new Metropole School will be heavily influenced by GEMS Metropole Motor City. Indeed, given that the teacher recruitment has lain in the hands of Mr. Iqbal, we would expect there to be a very similar profile among leadership and staff.
GEMS Metropole Al Waha, says its focus is "on nurturing future leaders". ‘Nurturing leadership’ is the motto that guides MTW’s approach to education. The school believes that every student has the potential to be a future leader, and it is MTW’s mission to nurture that potential.
The school's vision is "to create a sustainable and inclusive community hub that nurtures tomorrow's leaders", whilst the school's mission is "to lead, nurture, and succeed.
"Our values of curiosity, confidence, creativity, respect, and kindness serve as the foundation for everything we do".
Both the Mission and Vision highlight the importance of providing a supportive and inclusive environment to nurture students so that they may grow and reach their full potential.
These overarching principles are not limited to academic excellence, but extend to the holistic development of students.
Details of the leadership and staffing of the school have not yet been provided. The school has a capacity of 3,450 students. Class sizes at GEMS Metropole Motor City are a maximum of 22 in FS and 28 in Primary and Secondary with averages of 20 and 26 respectively. Students at MTS come from a vast range of nationalities - over 100 - and we would anticipate that Metropole Al Waha will attract a similar spread.
The school will follow the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum for FS1 and FS2, continuing with the National Curriculum for England for Years 1 to 9. Year 10 and 11 students will be offered GCSE, whilst Years 12 and 13 will be offered an Asdan pathway, A Levels and BTEC qualifications. The latter will focus on electrical automotive manufacturing and construction.
According to MTW:
“One of the things that makes our school special is our focus on sustainability and inclusivity. We aim to create a sustainable and inclusive community hub that nurtures future leaders, which also extends to the ethos of the school. The school’s curriculum is carefully crafted to align with the values and attributes of curiosity, confidence, creativity, respect, and kindness. Each stage of the curriculum has a different focus that aligns with these values.”
In FS1 to Year 2, the curriculum is designed to focus on 'nurturing curiosity' through the provision of a forest school, complete with biodomes and a farm.
For students in Years 3 to 6 (Key Stage 2) - under the banner ‘Values School, Nurturing Confidence’ - the curriculum is designed to nurture confidence, creativity, and career success. Teachers will strive to help students master mathematical calculations, writing, and public speaking among other activities, while fostering a love for reading, scientific inquiry, and entrepreneurial leadership. MTW will also offer a range of performing arts and sports programmes to help students find their passions and develop their creative abilities.
Students in Years 7 to 9 (Key Stage 3), will see their 'creativity nurtured' through a variety of programmes including a core curriculum, performing arts focus, and entrepreneurial leadership curriculum. The school will also provide opportunities for students interested in sports through the Mavericks elite sporting pathway. These programmes will help students develop their creative skills and become confident leaders.
In subsequent years, as the school grows to include Years 10 and 11/ Key Stage 4 and Years 12 and 13/ Key Stage 5, the focus will be on 'Nurturing Career Success and Opportunities'. The school will offer a wide range of GCSE and A Level options, an ASDAN pathway and BTEC qualifications for students interested in pursuing a career in electrical automotive manufacturing, and construction.
In recognition of the broad range of nationalities that are likely to be attracted to the school, MTW will offer specialist training to teachers with the aim of providing additional support to students who do not have English as their first language. The specialist training includes identifying areas of difficulty, adapting curriculum and assessments to meet the needs of students, and creating a supportive and inclusive classroom environment. This support will be offered without any additional fee.
In common with all GEMS schools, there will be a focus on well-being and support, together with a wide range of extra-curricular activities.
According to the school, it has developed enrichment programmes that cover a range of topics, including environmental sustainability, entrepreneurship, and leadership, all at a flat price point. The school will feature the MTW cricket academy, led by a qualified cricket teacher.
The BSO report for GEMS Metropole Motor City singled out the focus on wellbeing, noting that the school "takes well-being and mental health seriously and in addition to eight staff members trained in teen mental first aid, several sixth-form students have been trained. These are available to younger pupils in communal areas during break. Pupils feel that their emotional health is boosted by spending time with the school’s therapy dog.” We would expect to see a similar focus at the new school.
The inclusion department at MTW is dedicated to providing an inclusive and diverse learning environment for all students. Staff in the department are equipped to provide support and resources to students with a wide range of needs, including those with autism, dyslexia, ADHD and other learning difficulties.
As part of the school’s commitment to achieving this goal, the Inclusion team offers specialisms in a wide range of learning approaches, including Colourful Semantics, TEACCH, Intensive Interaction, and Makaton. These approaches have been carefully selected to ensure all students can make better-than-expected progress against their individual education targets.
Each student will have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) tailored to meet his or her specific needs. The IEP will be reviewed regularly to ensure it remains relevant and effective.
The school will seek to work collaboratively with a range of professionals and stakeholders, including parents, external therapists, classroom teachers, inclusion specialists and Learning Support Assistants (LSAs).
In addition to the direct on-site support of the Inclusion team, the school will also establish partnerships with therapy centres to provide therapeutic support to families within the school facilities and during the school day, enabling the school to provide a holistic approach to supporting students’ educational, emotional and social needs. If such therapy is required, costs for therapy sessions will be payable directly to the relevant centre.
In addition, MTW has partnered with the Neuropedia Children’s Centre, a provider of specialised therapeutic support for children with a wide range of learning challenges. Through this partnership, MTW will offer a comprehensive school readiness programme for students who struggle with the expectations of a mainstream classroom. The programme is designed to provide both academic learning and therapeutic support.
The Neuropedia Children’s Centre utilises evidence-based therapeutic techniques such as play therapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy to support students’ social and emotional development. This approach helps to build a strong foundation of resilience and confidence, enabling students to overcome the challenges they may face in the classroom
If a student requires additional support through a Learning Support Assistant, the school is able to offer this assistance at an additional cost, payable monthly (the amount has not been advised and will differ dependent on the support requirements of the student).
Alternatively, if parents wish to seek an LSA from external sources, the inclusion department can provide support in the recruitment process to guarantee all safeguarding protocols are strictly followed. The department can also offer assistance in the selection and screening process of the LSA, as well as providing guidance on the proper management and communication with the chosen LSA.
Although we have not received direct information from the MTW team in regard to this question, we would expect students to be assessed using standardised benchmark tests such as CAT4, and TIMMS and PISA. We would also hope that MTW will share its students’ academic successes, as has become increasingly the case with GEMS schools.
Whilst WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has always maintained that examination results should not be and are not the be-all and end-all of education, they are an important factor in school choice for both students and their families.
At this stage, with the school’s opening to Year 8, we do not yet know what support will be in place to help students with post-16 subject choices, university preparation, choice, and applications, but anticipate that a school counsellor will be made available.
With the school having been constructed and ready to occupy in 2019, one major benefit for new students is that they are unlikely to be impacted by construction delays – though after four years vacant, we assume that a sizeable clean up and maintenance task will have been required.
The school facilities were originally designed to accommodate a premium plus-priced school, and as such, parents and students can expect to see some excellent facilities provided. These include a Biodome,
a Farm, Forest school, specialist Arabic and Islamic rooms, Language rooms, a Drama room, a Music room, Chemistry labs, ICT labs, world-class BTEC mechanics, engineering and construction facilities, and an Auditorium.
Recreation/sports facilities will include a Foundation Stage indoor play area, a Basketball court, Cricket pitches, a Floodlit Astroturf sports pitch, and Swimming pool.
Facilities have been designed in recognition that some students may have physical limitations that require special accommodations, and MTW meets all the criteria of the Universal Design Code. This means facilities are designed to be accessible and inclusive for all students, regardless of their physical abilities.
Not only the KHDA' DSIB and the UK Government Department of Education's BSO inspectors have been impressed by many aspects of GEMS Metropole Motor City, and we do not doubt that GEMS Metropole Al Waha will aim to at least match, if not exceed, the areas of strength of the original school.
Parent feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com from those at GEMS Metropole Motor City has been exceptionally positive with a total of 182 reviews from parents who have rated the school 4.5/5 - a positivity rating of 90%.
Children enjoy going to school tremendously and have a tremendous sense of belonging. Over 3/4 of parents are completely satisfied with the academic performance of the school and almost 80% are fully satisfied with feedback from the school and its disciplinary policy and implementation. Almost 80% of parents feel that their child's confidence has been improved by a lot or a great deal. 85% of parents would unreservedly recommend the school to other parents.
With this level of positivity, we now understand why GEMS has chosen to go the Metropole route.
We asked the team at MTW to tell us what make their school special and will differentiate it from others.
It told us:
"At our school, we understand that sustainability is not just a concept to be taught in theory, but something that needs to be integrated into real-world practices. Our unique educational pathway is based on linking sustainability to leadership and entrepreneurship and teaching our students how to create and run sustainable businesses.
"Our programme begins with an introduction to sustainable business practices and how to incorporate them into a business model. We teach our students how to evaluate the environmental impact of production processes, packaging and transportation, and how to develop solutions that reduce their carbon footprint. We also emphasise the importance of sustainable supply chains and how to work with suppliers who share the same commitment to sustainability.
"In addition, our programme focuses on leadership and entrepreneurship, teaching our students how to develop a business plan, identify potential customers and investors, and effectively market their products or services. We provide hands-on experience in running a business through various practical projects, such as managing a school store or organising a sustainable event.
"Our farm shop sets our school apart. We are committed to reducing our carbon footprint by minimising transportation emissions and promoting the use of eco-friendly packaging materials. In addition, we will create an online shop with school branding that further promotes sustainability by offering a range of eco-friendly products.
"The BTEC-iBTEC engineering programme will equip our students with technical skills and knowledge that can be applied in a variety of fields of further education.
"Our focus will be on nurturing leadership. We aim to providing a holistic education that develops students’ academic, creative and leadership potential through a number of initiatives that align with our vision of a sustainable and inclusive community hub that nurtures future leaders."
Provided that the team at GEMS Metropole Al Waha can deliver their promises, we can see the Metropole brand potentially going from strength to strength.
Fees at MTW will increase on a sliding scale through the first three years of operation – an unusual arrangement, as under normal circumstances, fees are frozen for this period until the first DSIB inspection has taken place.
Fees in 2023-24 will range from AED 36,000 in FS (rising to AED 38,000 in 2024-25 and AED 40,000 in 2025-26), rising to AED 40,500 in Years 1 to 6 (rising to AED 42,740 in 2024-25 and AED 45,000 in 2025-26), and are AED 45,000 for Years 7 and 8 (rising to AED 47,500 in 2024-25 and AED 50,000 in 2025-26).
For Admission, the initial requirements for admission encompass previous school reports and a copy of the student’s passport, followed by an assessment. There is a registration fee is 10% of the annual tuition fee, whilst, once enrolled in the school, there will be a re-registration fee is 5% of the annual tuition fee.
By comparison, fees at GEMS Metropole Motor City range from AED 33,792 for FS1, increasing to AED 36,864 for FS2. Fees for Years 1 to 6 are AED 39,936 and AED 45,989 for Years 7 to 13. Given the superior facilities at GEMS Metropole Al Waha, these seem to be quite generous adjustments.
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