GEMS Wellington Academy – Al Khail is a UK curriculum 'Premium Plus' school (which means top of the range for facilities and fees), located together with GEMS International School and GEMS New Millennium School on a large site at the edge of the Dubai Hills development and close to Mohammed bin Rashid City.
Opened in September 2013, the location of GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail (WEK) is not, on first thought, an ideal choice, being directly across the Al Khail Road from the Al Qouz Industrial area.
In reality, as one of the planned school zones within Dubai Hills and close to Mohammed bin Rashid City, families relocating to the area over time have established schools on the doorstep. It is also very convenient for the New Dubai areas (Meadows, Greens etc.), housing located on Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road (Arabian Ranches, Dubai Sports City) and even Business Bay, Jumeirah and Umm Suqeim, given easy access from junction 2 (Meydan Street) and junction 4 (Umm Suqeim Street).
Parent feedback from close to 180 parents at GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com is largely positive, with 88% happy to recommend the school to other parents.
Parents identified the strengths of the school as its commitment to keeping the child at the centre of its efforts, ensuring that students are happy and thriving. Many parents appreciate the excellent facilities for sports, arts, and music and for the wide range of clubs and extracurricular activities, fostering a well-rounded curriculum.
Parents commented on the stable and effective leadership which they acknowledged as a significant strength. The school is praised for its strong leadership and dedicated and teaching staff, together with the quality of teaching.
Parents also appreciate the good discipline and focus on student safety, with a strong approach to behaviour management. This is in tandem with the strong emphasis on student wellbeing and confidence building, creating a positive and comfortable atmosphere. Many parents also mention a strong sense of community at the school, and they appreciate the inclusive environment with its inclusive practices and promotion of equality.
The following comment is indicative of the views of many parents:
"This school has really been on a journey and it has the child at the heart of all it does. Stable leaders that know what they are doing makes a huge difference, and that practice what they preach. My children are happy, thriving and held to account at all levels. There is so much talk about bullying at schools in the UAE, and to say there isn’t any in any school here is just not true and if they say that there isn’t any, they are lying to you. However, I set my standard of a school in regard to how they deal with it. WEK works hard to ensure children are safe and happy. They deal with behaviour properly and engage with parents to work with them. I am very happy with WEK and would (and do) recommend the school to anyone looking for an inclusive, happy school with great academic outcomes."
GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail was the fourth school to join the GEMS Wellington brand, following GEMS Wellington International School, Dubai (WIS), the now-closed GEMS Wellington Primary School (WPS) and GEMS Wellington Academy Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO). With the closure of WPS, many students and staff transferred to WEK.
It was clearly the intention of GEMS Education that the Al Khail school should emulate the success of the other schools; Wellington Academy DSO is rated Very Good by the KHDA, whilst Wellington International is rated Outstanding.
WEK's achievement of an improved Very Good rating in the KHDA's 2019-20 DSIB inspection round, which it retained in the first post-pandemic inspection of 2022-23, suggests that it is well on the way to parity at a minimum. Add to this its achievement of an Outstanding rating from the accreditation agency, British Schools Overseas, which was reconfirmed in February 2023, and it seems that this is a genuinely Outstanding school, with all but local recognition.
The other obviously common thread - aside from the name - is that all three operating GEMS schools offer the National Curriculum for England. However, where Wellington International School offers I/GCSE followed by the IB curriculum for post-16, and Wellington Dubai Silicon Oasis now offers both A Level and IB Diploma, WEK has followed highly successful (and over-subscribed) GEMS Jumeirah College in offering A Levels. There is a certain irony to this, since Jumeirah College was originally intended to move to the Al Khail site, but parent opinion swayed GEMS to retain its original Jumeirah location.
The Vision for GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail is of "An inclusive learning community in which we enable all students to Aspire, Create and Excel in order to become the future leaders in their field by equipping them with the skills, attributes and attitudes to become successful and happy lifelong learners."
In his introduction to the school, Principal, Campbell Douglas, says that the core goal of WEK is "is a simple one – to be the best international British curriculum school in the UAE, where students Aspire, Create, and Excel." Central to achieving this goal are four key tenets - the creation of an environment where all community members feel happy and safe. The Academy is a fully inclusive community built on mutually respectful relationships. It is a community that students are proud of and want to belong to.
Secondly, WEK offers a broad and balanced, but rigorous curriculum that allows for the personalisation of learning and ensures that every learner experiences success, no matter what their pathway. Thirdly, underpinning excellent teaching and learning are outstanding teachers and an evidence-informed approach to implementing best practice that ensures unsurpassed learning experiences. Finally, the school incorporates a broad extra-curricular offering that allows students the ability to find their true passion in life.
"At the Academy, this extensive offering is underpinned by an understanding that all community members have an obligation to the betterment of our world through participation in service and sustainability projects."
WEK currently caters for children from FS1 to Year 13, with the A Level year having opened in September 2018 and the first cohort of graduates having left the school in June 2020.
At the time of the last DSIB inspection in early 2023, the school had 2,150 students from ages 4 to 18 (FS to Year 13). A significant 265 students (12%) have been identified as Students of Determination (SEND) in need of additional support. Of the 86 nationalities represented at the school, the largest demographic is Arab and the school has a reasonably large cohort of 97 Emirati students.
Teachers, close to 160 in total, are predominantly recruited from the UK. They are supported by a further 110 teaching assistants. The staff are all experienced in teaching the National curriculum for England and Wales. The teacher:student ratio of 1:14 is average for a school at this price-point, and should ensure that sufficient individual attention should be available for students. Staff turnover, at 12% in 2022, suggests that teachers are happy with their employment - the UAE average turnover in international schools is 20-22%.
Class sizes have recently been reduced to a maximum of 20 children in each FS class, 22 in Years 1 and 2 (both FS and Key Stage One classes also include a teaching assistant in addition to the teacher) and then 24 for all other year groups. This compares with classes of up to 27 in the higher grades previously.
GEMS Wellington Al Khail offers the National Curriculum for England from FS1 to Year 13. It has recently adopted the High Performance Learning approach of Professor Deborah Eyre - one of a growing number of schools in the UAE that follows the HPL framework - which was initially implemented by highly-rated GEMS Jumeirah College and its neighbour (and feeder) GEMS Jumeirah Primary School.
Professor Eyre is an expert in and an advocate of the latest neurological and psychological research, which shows most children are capable of reaching the high levels of performance previously associated only with the gifted and talented. She stresses that IQ and potential isn't fixed - evidence shows it can be grown, and the key is developing the right learning attitudes and attributes.
Parents are encouraged to support their children in achieving High Performance Learning by Encouraging resilience, Encouraging planning and monitoring, Encouraging open-mindedness, Encouraging practice, Encouraging curiosity, and Encouraging critical or logical thinking. Further details can be found here.
Children in the Foundation Stage follow the highly-regarded Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum. The EYFS curriculum focuses on seven key areas of development based on learning through play directed by highly skilled staff. These areas include Personal, social and emotional development, Communication and language, Physical development, Literacy, Mathematics, Knowledge and understanding of the world (Science, Design Technology, ICT, Environment, History, Geography) and Creative development (Music, art, dance).
In Key Stage 1-3 (Years 1 to 9) the curriculum is based on the National Curriculum with adaptations to contextualise learning within the school's international setting. Subjects taught in Years 1 to 6 include English, Mathematics, Science, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Design and Technology, History, Geography,Art and Design, Music, Physical Education (PE), Arabic Language, Islamic Studies, French as a Modern Foreign Language, and Personal, Social and Health education (PSHE). ICT is integrated into learning with all students from Year 3 upwards using iPads, where appropriate, to support their learning. All staff are trained in the use of a range of apps to enhance their teaching.
The school's focus on innovation is reflected in the school’s Future Talks series, Global Futures Curriculum and Academic Honours Programme.
Key Stage 3 provision (from Years 7 to 9) is designed to develop character in students by ensuring that the school's provision, both curricular and extra-curricular, fully engages them in their learning. The curriculum provides uninterrupted continuation from the Key Stage Two Programme and a very clear progression pathway to the Key Stage Four courses, including GCSEs and IGCSEs.. Subjects include English, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Arabic, Islamic Studies, Social Studies, Geography, History, French, Spanish, Drama, Music, Physical Education, Art, Design Technology, and Computing.
At Key Stage 4 (Years 10 and 11) a wide range of 20 GCSE and IGCSE courses are delivered of which the following are compulsory - Arabic, English Language, English Literature, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Social Studies, Physical Education (non-examined), Islamic Studies (for Muslim students only). Most students will select four further subjects from a list of available options including Geography, Business Studies, Psychology, History, French, Spanish, Media Studies, Physical Education, Art, Drama, Music, Design Technology - either Product Design or Textiles, Economics, Photography, and Film Studies.
Importantly, as further evidence of WEK's commitment to inclusion, students who commence their I/GCSE studies with a low level of English may opt for Directed Study. This is a non-examined subject but provides students with additional time and support for their other GCSE courses and English language development. Directed Study is also offered as an option to late-starters, joining the Academy during Term 1 of Year 10 and who have transferred from a different curriculum. These students are thus provided with an opportunity to make a manageable transition to Key Stage Four at WEK.
And in further recognition of its diverse population, GEMS Wellington Al Khail has introduced an innovative approach to recent changes to the UK-based A Level system - designed by the UK Ministry of Education to "toughen up" standards - by adopting a two path approach.
High achieving students at GCSE and IGCSE follow the UK A Level pathway, where subjects are now predominantly examined at the end of the full two year study period (the Linear Approach), whilst students who may find this option perhaps too challenging, will be directed towards the International A Level route. A total of 24 subject options are available.
Whilst recognised by universities globally, though perhaps not as highly regarded, International A Levels will continue to involve more assessed units (so less examinations), and will permit students to sit both AS and A Level examinations, with each year's studies being treated discretely. AS Level studies will remain a qualification on their own, whilst at the same time, "counting towards" the overall A Level grade. The single largest benefit for students following the International A Level route is that they will be able to resit AS examinations to improve their overall final A Level grade - something that is no longer permitted with the linear UK A Level approach.
In September 2023, the school started to offer an additional option for students -A level Law.
The international A-level Law course – specifically the Cambridge specification – consists of four papers spread across two years of study, with topics including English Legal Systems, Criminal Law, Law of Contract and Law of Tort. The papers assess students' understanding of the respective units and their ability to apply legal principles to hypothetical scenarios or analyse legal issues.
Three years ago, WEK introduced a range of BTEC (Business and Technology Education Council) qualifications to support an inclusive, equally diverse education for all learners post-16.
BTECs are alternative vocational courses that prepare students for work and provide relevant industry options in addition to the academic knowledge that universities seek. They carry the same UCAS tariff for acceptance into English universities as A Levels and the IB Diploma Programme; (BTEC is often used as the qualification to support the IB Career-related Programme). WEK has introduced BTEC subjects including Technology, Biomedical Science, Business Entrepreneurship, Sport, and Performing Arts. It is one of the only schools in the UAE to offer BTECs in Biomedical Science and Business Entrepreneurship.
The new BTEC Creative Media qualification introduced for 2023-24 gives learners the opportunity to develop their technical creative media skills through a process of self-evaluation, practice and review.
The focus of the school, however, is certainly not solely on academic success.
In addition to in-school creative and sports activities, GEMS Wellington Al Khail also offers a wide range of extra curricular activities which are run three days per week by staff. Over 100 are offered, encompassing the arts, sports, cooking, future learning, including art and design, photography, robotics, jewellery making, Arabic language club, book club, Islamic club, music, drama, dance, cookery, Scholars Cup and ICT. Educational activities include Mayhem Maths, handwriting, power reading, phonics boost activities and English Intervention. A range of action/sports activities include football, cricket, basketball, netball, swimming, rugby, rock climbing and Tri Kids.
Alongside the teacher-led ECAs, the school also provides Paid External Activities (ASAs) which are led by professional instructors hired by external providers that work under the GEMS regulation and standards. These included Hamilton Aquatics, Chess, Nutty Scientists, Premier Genie Robotics, Basketball, Gymnastics, Taekwondo and Go Ju Kai.
The WEK Swimming Centre of Excellence continued to operate even during the pandemic, with elite swimmers benefiting from a tailor-made training programme led by an ex-Olympic team swimming coach, expert nutrition and fitness advice, a flexible curriculum and full support from teachers and staff.
GEMS Wellington Al Khail is committed to placing specific focus on supporting children who are either academically-gifted or those who have additional learning needs through ‘The Bridge’ Learning Centre to cater to a range of Students of Determination. Overall the staff aim to ensure that children achieve a minimum of three steps each year at the relevant UK curriculum level, as opposed to the two steps targeted in the UK. This is ambitious.
This was one of the first schools within the GEMS group that is clearly offering support to students who do not currently meet the relevant academic standard for their age group.
There are three levels of support – Wave 1, where children receive in class support (at no additional cost), Wave 2, for students who are 9 months to 2 years behind their peers (where there will be learning support outside the classroom at an additional fee) and Wave 3, where students requiring significant additional support through a Shadow teacher for this one-to-one focus (with an additional fee to fund the cost of the teacher).
Commenting in the summary of the most recent KHDA inspection report, the DSIB team noted that "There are exceptionally positive examples of provision for students of determination."
The provision and outcomes for students of determination was rated Very Good.
The inspectors noted that "This highly-inclusive school benefits from exceptionally committed inclusion leaders who promote a strong vision that pervades the school. A high-quality induction policy ensures that new students of determination are provided with the best opportunities to be successful when they start school."
With concerns about the decision by the UK Department of Education to ask examiners to return to the grade boundaries of 2019, and the expected reduction in the number of highest grades to be awarded and pass rates, WEK shared its examination results for A Levels and I/GCSE again for 2023.
At A Level, the cohort of 51 students were entered for 138 examinations. 21% of entries were awarded the highest A* grade, whilst 40% received an A*-A grade and 67% were awarded A*-B. WEK did not release the A*-C and A*-E grades achieved; something we would urge them to do for future results as this provides a full overview of pass grades.
At I/GCSE, the school revealed that 66 students were entered for 449 examinations. 11% of entries were at Grade 9 (GCSE), whilst 26% were at A* (Grades 9-8), 45% at A*-A (Grades 9-7), 83% at A*-B (Grades 9-6) and 92% were awarded passes at A*-C (Grades 9-4).
The first cohorts of A Level students, who were entered for their examinations in 2020 and 2021 received Centre Assessed Grades as a result of the pandemic, whereby staff and leaders of the school determined the outcomes based on internal assessments and predicted grades.
The first cohort of students to take examinations in the traditional sense were those of 2022. A cohort of 60 students were entered for a total of 187 examinations. 7.5% of entries were awarded the highest A* grade, with 30% receiving A*- A and 50% being awarded A*-B.
The 2022 I/GCSE cohort of 68 students were entered for a total of 366 examinations. 11% of entries were awarded A*, with 30% being awarded A*-A and 54% receiving A*-B grades. The school did not provided the overall passes at A*-C (the pass grades) but did advise that 77% of students had been awarded a minimum of 5 pass grades including Maths and English.
For 2021 A Level results, 31 students were entered for a total of 91 examinations. Of these entries, over a quarter (26%) were awarded A* grades, over half (52%) received A*-A grades, and over three-quarters (78%) were awarded A*-B. The school did not reveal the exam entries graded A*-C or A*-E (which is the norm), nor the overall pass rate.
The Academy did release more detailed results in relation to its I/GCSE outcomes for 2021.
A total of 42 students were entered for 374 examinations. Of these entries, 97 were awarded a Grade 9 (at GCSE), whilst 161 (43% of exam entries) achieved A* (Grades 9-8), 228 entries were awarded A*-A (61%), 314 entries achieved A*-B (84%) and 97.3% of entries were awarded a pass between A*-C. Twenty-three students of the cohort achieved at least one Grade 9, whilst 29 students achieved at least one A*-A (grade 9-7).
The first cohort of A Level students to be entered for their examinations in 2020 were among the many hundreds of thousands of students globally whose examinations were cancelled as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic. The school released little information in terms of student numbers or exam entries (both likely to have been low numbers), but did advise that 19% of all entries were graded A*, 49% were graded A*-A and 76% were awarded A*-C. No overall pass rate at A*-E was provided.
Similarly, full details of student numbers and entries were not provided for I/GCSE entries in 2020, but the data that was released can be found in the table below together with that of 2019 and 2018.
The school's first cohort of GCSE and IGCSE students completed their examinations in June 2018 and the school published its results - although not in the degree of detail that we at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com would like to have seen. For the June 2019 results, WEK again provided some key information.
|No. of students in GCSE level cohort:||39||34|
|% of cohort entered for GCSE exams||Not provided||Not provided||Not provided|
|No. of exam entries||Not provided||Not provided||
|% of exam entries graded A*/9||13||12||24|
|% of exam entries graded A*-A /9-8||48||26||45 (UK average 21%)|
|% of exam entries graded A*-B /9-7||70||47||67|
|% of exam entries graded A*-C /9-4||97||95||93 (UK average 69%)|
|% of students achieving 5 A*-C/ 9-4 including English and Maths||Not provided||Not provided||88|
|Overall student pass rate A*-C||Not provided||Not provided||Not provided|
|Number of students excluded from the statistics||Not provided||Not provided||Not provided|
|Highest number of grades by an individual student||Not provided||Not provided||Not provided|
In addition to the information provided above, the school also advised that in 2018, 100% of students achieved GCSEs in English Language and Triple Science, with 85% of students achieving this in Maths also - this data was not provided for 2019. The usual overall measure of performance in the UK is the percentage of students achieving 5 GCSEs at grades A*- C (9-4) including English and Maths.
The school did not reveal the number of students who entered the exams, nor the number of exams that were involved. Clearly with such small cohorts of students, it is very early days to make judgments about the school's achievements. However, given that these results are significantly better than UK standards, there is no doubt that WEK's early I/GCSE students have set good standards for their followers to aspire to exceed.
We are very encouraged to see the Academy is not only releasing its results, but placing these in context in relation to value-added achievement, noting that overall A Level results reflected:
"a score of 1.16 (Grade 1) in our Alps A Level Provider Quality Indicator scale, together with a Grade 1 in our quality of teaching and learning. This means that the progress of our students made from the quality of teaching across the curriculum, regardless of subject choice is in the top 5% or better of schools globally".
As would be expected with any GEMS premium school, the facilities are excellent.
The school facilities include an auditorium and theatre, full cafeteria, recording and video studio, a dance studio, a drama studio, a film studio and radio room, food tech, science and tech labs, mac labs,specialist rooms for music, art, languages, textiles and product design, libraries and study zones and an Achievement Centre (specialising in the support of children with additional learning needs and those who are gifted and talented).
Sports and outdoor facilities include a three level gymnasium with roof top tennis courts, two 25 meter pools and a toddler pool, full football and rugby pitches, basketball and tennis courts, and indoor and outdoor covered play areas.
In 2017-18, GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail underwent joint inspections by the KHDA and by the British Schools Overseas Inspection teams. The Academy was awarded a Good rating by both, retaining this KHDA rating from the two previous inspections.
For the 2018-19 KHDA inspection, GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail again received a Good rating. However, as is so often the case, this overall rating did not tell the full story. The vast majority of measures were rated Very Good, in reality, across most of the six key performance standards.
No wonder then that in the foreshortened 2019-20 DSIB inspection round, WEK received the Very Good rating that it came so close to a year ago.
In 2022-23, in the first full post-pandemic inspection, WEK again received the Very Good rating.
As is so often the case, the overall rating again did not highlight the scale of improvement that had taken place since 2020. A total of 36 key performance indicators received improved ratings, and of these improvements, and 28 of these were to Outstanding.
Overall, the inspection team found that the strengths of WEK are:
It is evident that there are many positive initiatives taking place at GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail. The school had set its own agenda, stating that its ambition was to provide "consistently outstanding education by 2021". Whilst it may not yet quite have achieved that goal (and with the impact of the pandemic, this can be no surprise), each inspection appears to being it closer.
The inspectors' key recommendations focused on three key areas; the school should:
If you would like to read the full KHDA inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to see the reasons behind the ratings and the recommendations - you will find it here.
Whilst the KHDA's DSIB inspection team may have rated the school Very Good overall, the BSO inspectors went one further, awarding the school its highest 'Outstanding' rating.
Their report notes that "GEMS Wellington Academy, Al Khail is an outstanding school and provides an outstanding quality of education for pupils from three to 18 years."
Their overall judgement noted:
If you would like to read the full BSO inspection report, it can be found here.
For the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Parent Survey, feedback has substantial with over 160 parents having responded, giving an overall rating of 3.3/5 - a positivity rating of 66%. 88% of parents agreed that they would recommend the school to other parents. This is a significant turn around from two years ago when the figure was 73%.
One notable difference in opinion from the previous outcome is the proportion of parents who are now fully satisfied with the academic performance of the school (now 81%) compared with 60% previously. Despite this obvious improvement in satisfaction rating, 18% of parents believe that additional external tuition is necessary, but this is significantly below the UAE average of 29%. The school's communications (satisfactory according to 76%) and disciplinary policy and implementation (84%) are above UAE averages also.
46% of parents say that the school has improved their child's confidence 'a great deal' with a further 30% saying 'a lot'. 49% of parents are 'extremely confident' and a further 33% 'quite confident' in WEK's ability to meet their child's specific learning needs.
If there is an issue, and it is the most common one, it is the value for money that the school's fees represent. Some 50% of respondents totally agree that they do so (in line with the UAE average), whilst a further 43% partially agree and 7% totally disagree (below the UAE average of 11%).
If you are a parent, teacher or student at GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail and would like to share your experience and opinions with other potential members of your community, complete our survey here..
In a new initiative from the KHDA in the 2022-23 inspection round, the DSIB inspectors were asked to evaluate the 'Quality of wellbeing provision and outcomes' which were found to be at a very high level, the highest of four possible ratings.
The inspectors found that:
GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail is a school that is evidently wholly and positively engaged on its journey to delivering an innovative and diverse range of curriculum options to meet the aspirations of ALL of its students. It is also clearly very well along the road to improvement.
Without question, the current leadership has brought the school very much further than we would have anticipated back in 2018. Five years on, we would not hesitate to recommend GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail as a highly diverse, inclusive and wholly student-centric school.
Fees are, as noted, premium. Currently, KHDA approved fees for FS1 start at AED 45,259 and by Year 13 reach AED 89,476. Even at this level, these fees for a premium plus are well below other schools with the same standards and facilities.
Parents should be aware that there is a considerable step up in fees from Primary (Year 6) to Secondary (Year 7) - from AED 57,006 to AED 78,601. Similarly, fees then increase to AED 88,446 in Year 10, rising to AED 89,476 in Years 12 and 13.
GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:
If you are the owner or the principal of the school and note any inaccuracies, or would like to update data, you can now open an account with us. You will also be able to add admissions availability per year group, and advertise current job vacancies. This is a free service. Please help us keep prospective parents up to date with your latest information.
Are you looking for a place for your child, and want help from our school consultants? If so, click on the link below, and we will forward your request for information to the school or schools of the same type that we are confident have availability. This is a free service for our readers. Request Information