GEMS Cambridge International Private School Sharjah prides itself in students’ positive behavior for learning and the close student, teacher, and parent relationships that have been established. The values-based House system (Honesty, Integrity, Kindness, and Respect) is a key driver of the school’s ethos and approach to teaching and learning.
Opportunities for personal growth, social responsibility, and leadership through the development of well-being and mutual respect are evident in all aspects of school life, e.g., Moral Education lessons; Arabic and Islamic competitions; student-parent webinars; student assemblies; student leadership roles; inter-school and external workshops and competitions.
Students’ safeguarding and well-being are at the heart of the school, with well-established routines that all stakeholders are clear of, and students know who they can talk to if they have a concern. The safeguarding team diligently follows up on referrals with guidance from GEMS and uses the expertise on-site of the school counselors and, when necessary, the medical team. Established school initiatives include a dedicated Well-being Team on MS Teams and the active promotion and rigorous implementation of the highest standards of E-safety.
“At GCS, our mission is to enable students to realize their full potential in a multicultural, caring, and positive learning environment. We endeavor to develop responsible, globally conscious citizens through our broad and balanced curriculum. We support all students to develop their skills as life-long learners with a strong sense of self-worth,” says Albie Huyser, the Principal and CEO at GEMS Cambridge International Private School Sharjah.
GCS is a values-based international UK curriculum school in Sharjah, United Arabic Emirates. The school was founded in 2019 and has seen significant growth, with 1850 students currently on roll. GCS caters to the needs of a diverse student population comprising 66 different nationalities from FS1 to Year 13. The school focuses on design thinking, encouraging innovative ideas and creative problem-solving. It enables learners to continually expand their knowledge and ensures a personalized approach to learning with continuous parent-teacher communication. GCS was awarded the BSME Ed Goodwin Award for Exceptional Service, which is an annual award recognizing the exceptional contribution of students in BSME schools to their local or global community. In addition, the school also worked with UNICEF to raise awareness of a child’s rights and support children’s participation in school and the community.
Inculcating Parent Involvement
“A parent’s involvement in their child’s learning does make a difference, and we are committed to giving our parents the tools and support they need to help their child achieve their full potential,” shares Mrs. Albie. GCS is very proud of its close working relationships with parents and carers as a school that continues to develop many more aspects of home-school partnerships. With a shared vision for continuous improvement, the school is determined to build on the many strengths concerning parent partnership. At all levels, there is a real drive to continue developing even more effective ways to engage and involve parents in their children’s education and the broader life of the school community. The Local Advisory Board has an in-depth knowledge of how leaders engage parents and the effectiveness of the strategies implemented. The school uses a range of very effective methods of communication with parents, the efficacy of which is robustly quality-assured.
A New Approach to Learning
Positive behavior for learning, effective classroom engagement, and very positive relationships between students and their peers and students and their teachers are real strengths at GCS. The School’s use of visible learning outcomes and success criteria, which meet the needs of individuals and groups of students, ensures that all groups of students make excellent progress. The school’s use of highly effective assessment approaches, which inform the delivery of lessons founded on the planned and intended curriculum, contributes to the high attainment levels across all year groups. In the Early Years classes, there is a maximum of 25 students and at least 2 adults in a class, whereas the older year groups vary from 15 to 30 students depending on the year group/subject. GCS has partnered with Oxford University Press to be a pilot school to launch the Oxford Well-Being Framework with a classroom culture that fosters learning and well-being. The spiral model focuses on learning themes around caring for the body, mind, relationships, self, and the world.
All students follow the National Curriculum for England. The curriculum has been carefully designed to consider the demographics so that it is relevant and effective in developing knowledge, skills, and understanding of all students in its local context. Consequently, students can enter schools in the UK or other UK schools within the UAE without disruption. The school’s NCfE assessments are UK-sourced and benchmarked against UK standards. It also closely follows the national statutory requirements and is committed to providing a curriculum that is in line with the expectations of the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Sharjah Private Education Authority (SPEA).
A robust induction program; bespoke PD sessions; self-directed learning opportunities; middle leaders’ training; learning walks, lessons observations; distributed planning; team teaching, and mentoring support from senior and middle leaders provide a very solid foundation for teacher training and professional development that is in line with the UAE Teacher Standards, national curriculum expectations, and the DFE teacher standards. This has contributed to the School achieving all four of the Optimus Awards for Well Being; Best Practice for Teaching Assistants; Parent Partnership, and Inclusion, just to name a few of their many accreditations and awards.
Unmatched Credentials for Quality Education
GCS is accredited by several organizations, including the BSME, COBIS, and BSO. BSME requires schools to undertake the BSO International Framework inspection, which GCS has passed with flying colors. With school improvement, learning, safeguarding, and well-being at the core, the COBIS program supports schools with a British educational ethos worldwide in their development journey. BSO is an inspection framework for overseas schools established by the British government, which ensures schools provide their students with the skills and qualifications they need to enter or re-enter the British education system.
The school is also registered with the College Board, which helps students prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and services to ensure college readiness and college success—including the SAT, the Advanced Placement Programme, and BigFuture in the US. The administration has also registered to Common App and UCAS, which are career pathways for the UK and US.
GCS focuses on the holistic development of our students, catering to all aspects of their well-being. Apart from academics and sports, there is a need for students to also be aware of the information they receive from the internet and media. GCS initiated the Common-Sense Media School, which is committed to the deep implementation of the common-sense digital citizenship curriculum. With technology rapidly evolving, the school understands that students need exposure to it. Therefore the Microsoft Showcase Schools accreditations ensure student-centered, immersive, and inclusive experiences that inspire lifelong learning, stimulating the development of essential future-ready skills so students are empowered to achieve more.
GCS has also been awarded the title of Unified Champion School. This title reflects the School’s intentionality towards inclusion and our dedication to creating a school community where people of all abilities are celebrated, promoting social inclusion through bespoke planned and implemented activities affecting universal change. Additionally, the school was also accredited as part of the Eco-Schools Green Flag international body to support students in learning more about sustainable development. This is an internationally recognized accreditation for excellence in sustainable education, along with UNCCC Educate Global Bronze School, which is the new benchmark and standard in Climate Change Education and Sustainability.
Preparing Students for Higher Education
GCS provides a career development program led by an award-winning career counselor who is offering and developing career guidance at GCS, the UAE, and internationally. Through the Skill Development program, all students in Year 12 work in various responsibilities across the school, based on their profile, to develop their competencies and skills. “We host regular Career Experience Days where a skills audit is conducted for parents, and based on the areas of expertise, parents are invited to engage in career orientation sessions with a personalized approach to our students,” explained Mrs. Albie. All secondary students have the opportunity to meet with industry-specialist parents and gain a better understanding of their progressive journey to success.
GCS hosts regular Career Fairs, where more than 200 universities worldwide and locally have visited the school to develop awareness and interest in career pathways, including Cambridge University, Imperial, Kings, Oxford University, and UC Berkley. Internships have been offered to students with top industry specialists such as INJAZ, HSBC, Emirates Aviation, Sharjah Child Friendly, Al Ansari Exchange, Emirates Red Crescent, and Gulf Medical University. GCS has forged partnerships with top guidance specialists such as IDP, Crimson Education, and Medical Doorway to support visas and transition for students. The school also has a standing collaboration with over 170 universities offering scholarships and opportunities to students.
With the Introduction of MOOCs for developing career-related qualifications and credit points, students have readily embraced it and upskilled themselves in areas that interest them. The school also offers a Dual Credit program with the MOE in partnership with local universities to increase the chances for our students of acceptance into international universities. Our School has also hosted EMSAT training sessions in collaboration with Zayed university and the British Council Ambassador program, where students are selected to be ambassadors for the British council to train other students for IELTS. “We also partner with Sharjah Alliance Franchise to develop a French program for students migrating to French-speaking countries or Canada. We offer bespoke training sessions on destinations and pathways for our students and parents and have extended our support to a sister school for developing their career counseling as well,” Mrs. Albie says.
A Financial Literacy Programme and the Unifrog Career destination platform access are available for all secondary students to develop their financial acumen and research skills. All students in the Sixth Form have completed their interest profile, personality profile, and work environment profile to understand their best career choices. Personal statement writing sessions helped students meet UCAS and Common App application deadlines. Awareness sessions and involvement opportunities regarding career development and exit destinations are continuously offered to students. “We have had a 300% increase in intake for Year 12 from the previous academic year due to our excellent career counseling opportunities. All students applying for admission to Year 12 were straight “A” students, and they chose GCS due to word of mouth and our reputation for excellent career guidance,” explains Mrs. Albie. Students who have now moved to other parts of the world and the UAE are still in contact for feedback and guidance. Students who were unsure of their career pathway benefited from bespoke one-to-one career guidance and were able to make informed decisions related to their future. This has allowed them to work in the real world, develop 21st-century competencies and skillsets for better adaptation and prepare them for their future career aspirations.
Due to the School’s bespoke and personalized support, GCS students have risen above the constraints of Covid and have become stronger and more resilient. The next step is for us all to continue on our journey to outstanding!
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