At a glance
Taken over by GEMS five 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 484 students (flat on last year) from 61 different nationalities.
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 challenges for some parents.
The last inspection by ADEC was in May 2016 and the school has succeeded in improving on an already good rating - jumping from A3 (Good) to A2 (Very Good). Only a handful of schools are rated A1 (Excellent) in Abu Dhabi.
The school says it is selective, and admissions tests are given for Grade 1 onwards.
Winner of WhichSchoolAdvisor.com's Happiest School in the UAE video competition.
Because it is a - relatively - new school, the majority of pupils are in the early stages of the school. At the time of the last inspection 197 children were in KG, and the remaining students spanning grades 1 to 5. Students come from across the world, but the biggest groups are those from the US, India and Canada.
UAE nationality pupils have fallen out of the top three since the last inspection.
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. 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.
Other areas of strength of GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi lie in its strong leadership, its teachers who create a "highly supportive, invigorating and exciting learning environment"; students that have "high levels of self-discipline, positive attitudes, confidence and curiosity and are very happy learners"; the school's "excellent communications" and the caring ethos generated by all staff.
GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi is also 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.
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.
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.
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. Turnover is currently running at 20% - below average for the UAE.
The teacher:student ratio is 1:12 - indicative of a well resourced and staffed school with the capacity to deliver individual attention to its pupils.
Families tend to come from the Reem, Saadiyat and downtown area of Abu Dhabi Island and are of a wide range of nationalities.
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.
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 39900 AED per year for KG 1 students, rising to 58400 AED per year for Grads 1 through to 5 - premium fees, but it is quite evident what you are paying for.
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