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Westminster School, Dubai

Quite a turnaround for the Al Qusais located Westminster School which, after six years of an Acceptable rating, has become a KHDA Good School.

The Westminster School had been in and out of the news, first as a result of the impending closure of the 18-year old school by GEMs Education, and then as a result of a u-turn over that decision.

The issue had been the viability of a school charging tuition fees between 5,392 AED and 10,483 AED. According to the GEMs Education boss, Sunny Varkey, any school charging below 12,000 AED per annum on average is simply economically unsustainable. The school’s new financial plan submitted to the KHDA – details of which remained undisclosed but which did not involve raising fees – seems to have really worked. The move to a Good rating is a significant, significant achievement.

The school’s latest report notes the “commitment, dedication and determination of the Principal, Kingston Gilbert Xavier, and [his] senior staff, [that have] focused on better outcomes for students”; the Outstanding attainment and progress of students in English, mathematics and science in the post-16 phase, and English in the secondary phase; Teaching, learning and assessment which are good across all phases and the curriculum and the innovative core values programme.

One very large bright spot of the school’s annus horribilus was, according to those involved, the spirit and professionalism the school’s students showed in managing the campaign to keep “their” school open. The children acted as a bridge between parents, GEMs Education and the KHDA, and provided one of the principal reasons the school remains open, able to offer their siblings the education they received.  This is reflected in the school’s latest KHDA report with students’ behaviour and their understanding of Islamic values recognized still as a school strength.

The school is by far the largest UK curriculum (IGCSE, AS and A’ Level) school in Dubai, home to over 5,000 students which must, at least, give it good economies of scale. Some 70 nationalities are included in the student population – including those from Pakistan, Egypt, India, UAE, other Arabs, and other Asians. The school’s 280 teachers give it a teacher to student ratio of 1:23 in FS and 1:18 elsewhere.

Note: The number of teachers at the school has fallen overall over the last couple of years, while student numbers have risen. Overcrowding in classrooms is an issue at Westminster – and noted in the KHDA’s report as something to ensure does not get in the way of effective teaching.

In previous reports the KHDA has noted “only half of the school’s current teachers hold a recognised teaching qualification.”Its 2013/14 report notes “teachers [have] a range of academic and teaching qualifications…” The majority of teachers are recruited from India.

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Westminster’s six years of an Acceptable rating will have constrained the school from raising fees above inflation (KHDA rules tie fee increases to performance). Its fees are barely changed over 2-3 years. To maintain profitability clearly the school’s leadership team will have looked at revenue (increasing pupil numbers) and costs (keeping teacher salaries under control). To have achieved this, while improving the institution itself in parallel is quite something.

The school records Outstanding attainment and progress for Science, English and Maths (SEM) at Post-16. The school is also rated Outstanding for English at secondary. Elsewhere the school is rated Good for SEM. The school is rated acceptable for Islamic Studies and Arabic, pretty much across the board. Teaching is clearly improving at the school, which is now better able to differentiate its curriculum based on specific needs.

Westminster did surprisingly well in WhichSchoolAdvisor.com’s Best British Schools in Dubai report which pivots cost with educational achievement. The school does well academically in external IGCSE and A Level external examinations based on the last data we had (Note: GEMs has stopped publishing data for its schools which is a shame). Parents and students claim to be largely satisfied by progress made according to feedback to the KHDA.

A school is not just about academic results, and improvements can be seen elsewhere at Westminster. The personal responsibility of students is now ranked outstanding across all phases of the school, while “Community and Environmental Responsibility” is also judged Outstanding at secondary and post-16. Cultural awareness is also rated highly across phases of the school.

Facilities at the school remain a weak spot and are still only satsfactory. The school’s students express dissatisfaction about these. Westminster, Dubai covers the basics, but little more. There are 180 purpose built classrooms (meaning approximately 4998/180 = 28 students per class, above the 25 prescribed as acceptable by the KHDA), a covered play area for Kindergarten students and a separate covered recreation area for the senior students; an activity room and an audio-visual room with multi-media facilities; three well-resourced libraries; six laboratories for Biology, Chemistry and Physics; art, craft and music rooms; five computer laboratories; and a school cafeteria.

WhichSchoolAdvisor.com itself has received limited feedback for Westminster, Dubai in its school survey (a surprise given the size of the school).

Fees as noted are very affordable for a UK curriculum school. KG tuition fees start at 5,726 AED per annum and rise to 11,132 AED in Year 13. You will be hard pushed to find a UK curriculum school with lower fees, and for a GEMs school, with the results it achieves, it is very much a statistical outlier.

 

Fees

FS-2 5726
YEAR-1 7074
YEAR-2 7074
YEAR-3 7074
YEAR-4 7074
YEAR-5 7074
YEAR-6 7074
YEAR-7 7634
YEAR-8 7634
YEAR-9 8982
YEAR-10 8982
YEAR-11 11132
YEAR-12 11132
YEAR-13 11132

 

Location

 

 

KHDA Ratings

2014-2015 Good click here
2013-2014 Acceptable click here
2012-2013 Acceptable click here
2011-2012 Acceptable click here
2010-2011 Acceptable click here
2009-2010 Acceptable click here
2008-2009 Acceptable click here

 

If you are the owner of the school and note any factual inaccuracies, or would like to update any information, please do not hesitate to contact us at editor@edu2021.com. Please also complete the WSA Official School Questionnaire which may be found here.

 

Update on December 12, 2015 | Reviewed by WhichSchoolAdvisor.com on July 28, 2013

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