You could be forgiven for thinking that the only school in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Dubai, in particular, that are making a mark on the education landscape, are the schools consistently rated as Outstanding by the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau(DSIB). These schools are normally in the headlines and their praises are sung all over social media, but we at Teach Middle East Magazine, take pleasure in unearthing hidden gems, and in this issue, we bring you a gem of a school that is worthy of every ounce of the publicity it is about to receive.

The Westminster School Dubai (TWS), part of the GEMS network, is one of the largest international schools in the GCC region, offering a British curriculum to over 72 different nationalities. It is a place of inspiration, aspiration and innovation, based on the GEMS core values and the belief that, improving education is the key to shaping a sustainable future for ourselves and those around us. Headed by Mr Kingston Gilbert (Principal and CEO), TWS has been growing from strength to strength and providing high quality education to its thousands of students. We were introduced to the wonderful work being done by the staff and students of TWS at one of the Knowledge and Human Development’s (KHDA) ‘What Works’ events. ‘What Works ‘is a series of events run by KHDA to showcase the good practice taking place in schools across Dubai.

We paid the staff and students of TWS a visit before the end of last academic year, to find out what makes the school so special. We discovered that TWS has a very enriched environment which encourages academic, social emotional learning, and fosters a spirit of enquiry, creativity and critical thinking. It is a space where imagination in art and innovation is not the exception; a place where learners develop 21st-century skills. The Westminster School has a successful academic track record with a Global Alumni, in universities all over the world.

The Westminster School Approach

Students at TWS are heavily involved in hands-on and project based learning, so much so that the school has developed its own approach. Every project carried out by the students, now follows a four-part approach; discover it, live it, evaluate it and embed it. In September 2016, the school participated in the KHDA Lighthouse Project and used their approach to great success with the then grade 6 cohort of students. Students carried out a project on integrity. They had to show integrity (Live it) by modelling appropriate interactions with each other, staff and parents inside and outside of school. Students were encouraged to look for (Discover it) ways in which they could encourage others to act with integrity. In December of that year, students assessed the impact of the project on members of their year group and the school (Evaluate it). At the end of the year, the project was rolled out to the whole school, in a bid to create a whole school culture of happiness and wellbeing (Embed it).

Steam at TWS

At TWS, STEAM is an integral part of the school’s theme based curriculum. Students from year 1 to year 8 take part in the school’s STEAM programme. STEAM is an educational approach to learning, that uses; Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts  and Mathematics, as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. The end results are students who; take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration, and work through the creative process. These are the innovators, educators, leaders, and learners of the 21st century! The school hosts various STEAM weeks in which there is a concerted effort to allow the students to showcase their learning. During the STEAM weeks Cycle 1, 2 and 3 students learn to organise their work, using mathematical concepts, while researching scientists and historians, through the use of technology and finally, presenting their work through the use of the Arts.

TWS Innovation Conference 2017

On the 18th and 19th of June 2017, just over three hundred educators attended the Innovation Conference, hosted by TWS. The conference explored the world of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its use in education. The conference began with an in-depth look at what AI is and its relevance to our everyday life and the education sector, in particular. Attendees got a chance to interact with AI and were even treated to a conference session conducted by “SIRI” the “intelligent” personal assistant found on most Apple devices. There were also other engaging workshops organised by universities, around the topics of Robotics, 3D Printing and Augmented Reality. The conference was a great success and plans are already underway for an even bigger and better event in 2018.

TEDx Youth at TWS

TEDx Youth are globally known events, which are designed to empower and inspire young people. TWS is one of the first schools in the region to host a TEDx Youth event. The idea behind hosting these events, is to engage and stimulate the next generation. The school held its first event on November 21st, 2016. Under the watchful eyes of their teachers and peers, students confidently spoke on a number of topics including; Technology, Social Media, The Real Definition of Beauty, How to Say No and The Effects of Always Using Emoji’s. The performances were outstanding and students are already preparing for the next event.

Outstanding Academic Performance at TWS

Over the years TWS has performed very well both locally and internationally. Its students have been accepted to some of the most prestigious tertiary institutions around the world. Students continually do the school and themselves proud, by attaining some of the highest marks in the Cambridge IGCSE, AS and A level examination. In 2015 MAHMOUD MOHAMED MAHMOUD SAAD ABOUAMER achieved the top mark in the United Arab Emirates for Physics, while in the same year AHMED TAREK MOHAMED MOHAMED GEAISSA was also top in the country for Information and Communication Technology. The school has also been the recipient of the H.H. Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Special Achievement in several categories.

What’s next for TWS?

With a great leader at the helm, a team of dedicated staff and ambitious students, the school has its sights firmly set on being rated as very good or outstanding during the next round of DSIB inspections. TWS is determined to continue being a happy and healthy school, as it continues to strive to integrate excellence beyond borders. We wish them all the success and will be here to celebrate with them as they continue to soar to new heights.