Very Good rated GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi carries the name of its sister school in Dubai, but that – at least externally – is where the similarities end.
The story so far...
Taken over by GEMS seven years ago, this city centre based school on Abu Dhabi Island is very much more traditional in appearance and feel than its Dubai namesake. GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi is one of the smallest GEMS and Abu Dhabi schools, currently offering the IB curriculum from KG1 to Grade 5 (ages 4 to 10), to just under 550 students from 67 different nationalities. The largest nationality group is Indian (around 13%), followed by American (10%), Emirati (8%) and Pakistani (7%). This really is a truly international school with no pre-dominant nationality group.
Some 90% of the 42 members of the teaching staff at the school are either from the US or Canada and are all International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme trained. Teachers are supported by a further 26 teaching assistants. Teacher turnover is currently running at 15% - below average for the UAE. The teacher:student ratio is 1:11 - indicative of a well resourced and staffed school with the capacity to deliver individual attention to its pupils.
There are no plans (or opportunity) to expand on the current site, but children graduating from GWA AD have automatic entry to GEMS American Academy, although as this school is located in the Raha area, this may not be without difficulty for some parents. With recent new school additions on Al Reem and Saadiyat islands (although no IB curriculum schools are among those openings), the challenge for GEMS may well be to keep the students within the group.
The last inspection by ADEK was in May 2018 and the school succeeded in retaining the Very Good rating achieved in the inspection from 2016.
The school says it is selective, and admissions tests are given for Grade 1 onwards.
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At the time of the last inspection the split between children attending KG, and those students spanning grades 1 to 5 was 47:53%. This is clearly a very "bottom heavy" school, with a significant focus on the Early Years.
What about the curriculum?
The school follows the International Baccalaureate Primary Years curriculum. With an average of 4 classes per grade and class sizes of between 20 (in KG) and 22 in other grades, the school feels homely and does not overwhelm in the way that many larger more modern schools do.
Pupils entering at KG are said to make excellent progress at the school, both academically, and in terms of personal development. Teaching overall is said to be Very good and can be seen in the school's Latest measurement of academic progress (MAP) report, as found on its web site. By Grade 3 the school outperforms its US based peers across Language, Reading and Maths.
The school has a strong focus on English Language Learner and SEN support with 2 members of staff working in each field. The school follows an immersive approach to ELL in KG with additional support being offered only if required from grade 1. GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi is praised for its "successful" focus on English language acquisition in the Primary Years Programme (PYP); the positive, caring and nurturing relationships throughout the school community and the school's highly effective systems for identifying and supporting special educational needs (SEN) and English as an additional language (EAL) students.
What about facilities?
The school is set back from a busy road and is striking with its white walls and blocks of brightly coloured shading around the exterior. It is a two storey building, set around a large central quadrangle which acts as an outdoor playground and multi-sports centre.
While not a new school GEMS Education has also done an exceedingly good job with the space that it has. Classrooms are set on two sides of the quadrangle, with the Indoor Sports Hall and central shared block (including Library, IT and specialist teaching rooms on the first floor) at one end and the administration block and further sports areas at the other end. There is a quiet corner play area that surrounds the KG classrooms and gives them a smaller space away from the main playground area. All classrooms are light, bright and well decorated with students’ work and well equipped for the task at hand.
Specialist Music, Art and Arabic rooms with appropriate staff are also incorporated within the teaching blocks. Specialist PE and Music and Movement staff work with children on physical activity. The library, which incorporates books in a range of languages, but with a particular focus on English and Arabic, regularly plays host to local authors who come into the school to share their books with the children. There is also a focus on Digital Citizenship and coding is included within the IT curriculum.
There is a canteen for staff and students and there is a very strong healthy eating policy throughout the school. Birthdays are only celebrated once per month and only healthy snacks and desserts are available in the canteen. Parents are expected to adhere to the school’s policy in this respect in terms of food sent into school.
Although the facilities at GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi may not be as impressive as some of the newer schools within the parent group, this does not seem to impact the learning opportunities within the school and if families are seeking a smaller, perhaps more traditional and homely environment for their Elementary age children, this school is definitely one to seek out.
What the inspectors say
The 2018 ADEK inspection found that GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi had continued to make Very good progress across a number of areas. Of the six key performance standards against which the school was assessed, it was rated Very Good in five, and Outstanding in respect of the Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of its students.
Inspectors noted that the school has made very good progress in addressing all of the recommendations of the previous inspection. Improvements have been sustained through strong direction from the senior leadership team and high quality continuing professional development for all staff. Teachers were found to have implemented a wide range of approaches to assessment and use assessment information effectively to plan students’ next steps in learning, and to identify what the school needs to do to improve achievement further.
Most teachers showed considerable skill in checking students’understanding and progress in lessons. They use a range of techniques to involve students effectively in assessing their achievement of lesson objectives and personal learning targets.Students who are exceptionally gifted and talented (G&T) are identified and their curriculum is being developed to ensure it builds consistently on their knowledge and skills.
The school has made considerable progress in improving students’ learning in subjects taught in Arabic and achievement in these subjects is now good. Teachers have adopted the highly successful approaches employed in the teaching of English and are continuing to develop their skills.
Key strengths of the school were identified as:
Areas for improvement were deemed to be the requirement to:
Feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has been almost universally positive, with parents liking the scale of the school, the attention given to their children, and the overall ambiance and warmth of the school.
Fees currently range from between AED 40,500 per year for KG 1 students, rising to AED 59,300 per year for Grades 1 through to 5 - premium fees, but it is quite evident what you are paying for.
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Our little GEMS really is a gem between schools in Abu Dhabi. It provides a safe and happy place for our little ones to start their journey of good quality education. We have a wonderful and very active parents community that does so much for our children and school throughout the year. Our always smiling Principle, his great office team and all amazing teachers are very friendly and approachable which to a parent makes a big difference when it comes to getting feedback, asking questions, dealing with issues or just having a small pet talk on the field.
I would highly recommend it to anyone and would not change for any other school.
I have both my son and daughter at GWA Abu Dhabi and honestly, cannot praise the school enough! My son has been there for 2 years. At the end of last year (KG2-4) he was behaving really strangely and was having problems with me leaving him in the mornings. The school tried everything to accommodate him, held numerous meetings with us, supported us by suggesting multiple methods of dealing with his behaviour, and were really patient. Mr Jay, the school principal, is a real professional who cares about the students and shows that. I'm surprised he even remembers the names of so many children! The teachers I encountered are real professionals with experience and have a lot to offer in terms of educating our children to be good citizens and human beings, which I believe is a priority over any high academic achievement, which I believe the school is also providing. The atmosphere is nurturing and positive, supportive and encouraging. The ONLY negative comment I have to add is the cost involved. The fees are really high and it is with great sadness that I will have to move the kids to another school after the 2014/2015 academic year. If you can afford it, it's really an exemplary school, one which I would have loved to attend if I were a child myself!
It is now 2016, I still have my son and daughter at GWA and still feel the same about the school. Shame that our lovely principal Mr. Jay is leaving us. Amazing place!