Just shy of completing its first decade, GEMS Wellington Primary School (WPS) is a well liked, increasingly established primary school based in Satwa, taking pupils from 3 to 11 years of age (KG to Year 6). The school is home to 1130 children, coming from over 70 nationalities. No one country of origin dominates, but the largest single demographic is Indian. The school is rated Very Good by the Dubai regulator, the KHDA, and Outstanding across all measures in its British Schools Overseas report.
GEMS Wellington Primary School has been rated Very Good for the fourth year running in the 2018-19 KHDA inspection process. An abbreviated version of the inspection report can be found under the Inspection tab. An update of this review will be completed once the full report has been issued.
The Story so Far
GEMS Wellington Primary School opened in 2008 and follows the National Curriculum of England and Wales. The student body is currently looked after by 87 teachers - the majority of whom are British, and by a further 55 teaching assistants. All teachers are said to have appropriate teaching qualifications, giving the school a teacher to student ratio of 1:13. This is around the average for a school of this category and price-point. Teacher turnover, at 22%, is around the average for Dubai, although the school would no doubt wish to see this at a lower level. Approximately 5% of students are Emirati and 10% are Students of Determination with SEND requirements.
Based in the heart of Satwa and close to the Sheikh Zayed Road and Downtown Dubai, GEMS Wellington Primary School is located on an urban site, and as a result, does not have quite as much outdoor space as some newer (further out of town) schools. Previously a private girls' school, GEMS has extensively renovated and expanded it, adding class rooms, specialist teaching rooms and labs, an additional wing on one side, and enlarged outdoor play and sports areas. The Foundation section of the school is located separately to one side, with its own playground and outdoor facilities.
Indeed, facilities at the school are very good - of the standard that GEMS has for its premium range of schools. Spacious classrooms are light and well resourced including ICT resources, which are readily available and well integrated within each classroom. In addition to ICT resources dispersed throughout the school, two ICT suites, featuring workstations for students, multi-media projectors and smart boards, as well as 60 iPads, a Green Screen and Mac Books are also provided. A well-stocked library has an extensive range of books, materials and resources. The library features reading corners, study areas, spaces for groups of students and PC workstations, which are readily available for children to access information on-line or from CDs and DVDs. Four music rooms house instruments, including percussion, orchestral instruments, keyboards and a variety of others. Two Art rooms are the centre of all creative enterprise in the school. The main Art room is a large well-equipped work area where students work with clay, thermo cole, and other materials. Science labs are also available for students' use.
Outdoor and sports facilities include a very large multi-purpose hall, two Swimming Pools (heated), and Astro Turf playing areas. The KHDA inspection teams have found both the facilities and the school environment to be in excellent condition, well-maintained, safe and clean.
GEMS Wellington Primary offers an abundance of extra curricular activities. Children from Years 1 – 6 (6 – 11 years old), can take part in up to two school activities per week, with activities run after 2:30 pm. Options include Music, Choir, Literacy Story Time, Cricket, Board Games, Arabic Writing, Swimming, Football, Basketball, ICT Aerobics, Dancing, Tennis Arts & Craft, Drama, Project Work, Tajweed "and many more".
What the Inspectors Say
The 2017-18 KHDA Report places GEMS Wellington Primary at Very Good, the third year in a row that the school has received this distinction after 8 years at Good. The inspection took place in October 2017, prior to the departure of the former Principal who had been at the helm of the school throughout its improvement to Very Good.
Inspectors identified the strengths of GEMS Wellington Primary School as:
Inspectors noted that the school has "sustained very good progress for children and students, leading to improved attainment at the Foundation Stage and in English and mathematics at the primary phase. Good progress in Islamic education and Arabic has not yet led to improved attainment, which remains acceptable. Overall, the learning skills of children in Foundation Stage are outstanding, while those of students in the primary phase are very good."
All measures of attainment and progress for English and Mathematics across the school are now rated Very Good, with attainment in the Foundation Stage having improved for Science also to this rating. Only Primary Science attainment remains rated Good. For the core Arabic subjects, whilst attainment is Acceptable, progress was found to be Good. The rating for students' learning skills in the Foundation Stage have been upgraded to Outstanding, whilst it remains Very Good in Primary.
In terms of Students personal and social development and their innovation skills, the Inspection team found that "Children and students display strong personal and social skills They behave very well and show responsible attitudes towards learning and to other people. They have a deep knowledge and understanding of Islamic values and Emirati and other cultures, particularly at the primary phase. Students' social responsibility skills are developing well." Personal Development was found to be Outstanding across the school.
Teaching and Assessment - at the core of any school - were found to be Very Good, both in terms of their effectiveness and assessment processes. Teachers were found to "explain things well and usually question students effectively to assess their understanding and to make them think for themselves. The quality of teaching, assessment and feedback to students is often very good or outstanding".
In addition, the other key area of Curriculum design and implementation, and its adaptation to support individual students was found to be "very well designed. It [the curriculum] is rich, with breadth and depth, and offers helpful opportunities for continuity in students' learning and personal development. Cross-curricular links and applications to real life contexts are well embedded. Staff adapt the curriculum content and delivery well to meet the needs of almost all groups of students. Enterprise, creativity and innovation are developing features." Perhaps unsurprisingly, the curriculum was rated Outstanding across the school, whilst its adaptation was rated Very Good.
The protection, care, guidance and support for students were also rated highly by the inspectors. Each measure was found to be Outstanding. In particular, comments from the Inspection team noted that "a culture of integrity and high expectation pervades the school, and underpins caring and mutually respectful relationships between staff and students. Teachers’ extensive knowledge of students’ strengths and needs allows them to provide well-targeted support for learning and personal development."
This culture clearly impacts the provision and outcomes for students with SEND, rated as Very Good with "provision [that] is carefully planned and highly organised. Students consequently receive appropriately modified experiences in most subjects. The support provided by the school's specialist teachers and learning support assistants is exceptionally well matched to students' needs." The latter comment is praise indeed!
The inspection ratings for Leadership and management remained unchanged at Very Good in terms of the effectiveness of the Senior team, their evaluation of the school's strengths and weaknesses and improvement planning, and Governance. The relationships between the school, parents and the local community, together with the management, staffing, facilities and resources of the school, were both rated Outstanding. The former Principal and the Head of School were singled out for their positive roles.
It will be interesting to see what impact the change of Principal has on the school's performance prior to the next inspection. The inspection team noted that "there is a trend of incremental improvement and clear capacity for further development". Doubtless, the new Senior leadership team will be trying to move the improvements beyond the incremental to more substantial change, in order to achieve the highest (Outstanding) KHDA rating.
In order to make that step up, the KHDA has highlighted the main areas for improvement. GEMS Wellington Academy needs to:
The requirements in relation to Islamic Education and Arabic reflect a common theme running throughout the vast majority of private schools in the UAE.
What do parents say?
The school itself is extremely proud of its relationship with parents - and notes its Outstanding rating in this regard in its KHDA report. In the KHDA's own pre-inspection survey of parents, of the 252 responses, 95% said that they were satisfied with the quality of education at the school. Parents who responded to the survey had very positive views. Almost all are satisfied with the quality of education and express positive views about a range of aspects of the curriculum, teaching, and care and support.
In the WSA School Survey, GEMS Wellington Primary comes highly recommended by parents. There is almost uniform satisfaction over academic attainment, but slightly lower satisfaction with the level of feedback to parents and with school discipline. 100% of respondents would recommend the school to other parents.
What about Fees?
The school has a waiting list, but encourages parents to meet its registrations and admissions team. Fees at GEMS Wellington Primary are at the higher end of the spectrum, beginning at AED 42,508 for Foundation, rising immediately to AED 53,582 from FS2 to Year 6.
Fees are paid termly.
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