On Closer Inspection

Matthew Burfield, Principal/CEO of GEMS Founders School — Dubai, tells us why the school underwent the BSO accreditation.

GEMS Founders School — Dubai (GFS) recently underwent their British Schools Overseas (BSO) inspection in order to get their British Department for Education (DFE) number. Having done the inspection quite close to their first DSIB inspection, where they were recently rated ‘Good’, it begs the question why the school would want to undergo such rigorous back-to-back processes.

Supporting Teachers

Matthew Burfield, Principal and CEO explains that there were three reasons for having the BSO inspection. The first was to ensure that the school could offer Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) induction, Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) assessment-only routes, and be better prepared to deliver the International Post Graduate Certificate of Education (IPGCE) through partner institutes.

“You can’t do any of that, at least as an overseas school, unless you have a BSO because that gives you your DFE number to use as an institution. That number is really important for us because we have about 29 young teachers who need one of those qualifications, and we have another 16 who are qualified with the IPGCE. They’ve done their PGCE here either through Tellal or a university here that offers it, and to be able to teach in the UK, they need the QTS and the NQT,” explains Matthew.

It is important for GFS to be able to take on young teachers who know they can do their NQT, complete their induction year and be formally qualified if they want to go back to the UK. “That allows us to manage all those young teachers and offer them the same opportunities as if they were in the UK,” adds Matthew.

Secondly, Matthew adds having that DFE number and being a recognised BSO school means that GFS will have the ability to attract better candidates. The school is registered on the DFE website which is important when individuals are researching schools — whether they are prospective parents or prospective teachers. Many international schools around the world are not accredited. While they may be wonderful schools, it makes it more difficult to have their work recognised when teachers do eventually go back to the UK.

This focus on teacher development has seen GFS boast a staff retention rate of 93 per cent against a Dubai average of around 75 per cent. “It means that we can do more because we’re not going through the basics, we’re not showing them policies and procedures, we’re taking our teachers to the next level. I think our retention rate and the stability and continuity that comes with it has given us a really strong foundation to take those next steps towards an ‘Outstanding’ DSIB rating,” says Matthew.

Setting Standards

Finally, the BSO is an accreditation to show that a school is at a certain level. GFS is also a member of the Council of British International Schools (COBIS) and British Schools of the Middle East (BSME). It is possible for a school to be a member of these bodies, but they cannot be fully accredited members without the BSO. Being a fully accredited member provides access to a lot of resources and materials and allows the school to advertise on their websites to attract international teachers.

“We can say that we are a certain standard and we meet certain criteria, and there isn’t another mid-market school around that has a BSO accreditation; it’s not usually something that a school of our model does,” says Matthew.

Matthew adds that in terms of GFS’s DSIB result, it is at the same level as GEMS Wellington Academy — Al Khail and GEMS International School — Al Khail, both premium schools. The school’s DSIB result and having the BSO puts GFS on the same level as GEMS Wellington Academy — Silicon Oasis when comparing the outcomes. “We’re stepping up and showing the best value for money. Students can get a premium-quality offering for a mid-market price range,” says Matthew.

In September, GFS enters its fourth year at capacity with 4,260 students. “It’s a great position to be in given today’s market,” says Matthew.

GFS’s BSO Ratings
Of the eight criteria against which the school was measured, five areas were ranked ‘outstanding’ and three were ranked ‘good’.
• Overall quality of education (Good)
• How well the curriculum and other activities meet the range of needs and interests of pupils (Outstanding)
• How effective teaching and assessment are in meeting the full range of pupils’ needs (Good)
• How well pupils make progress in their learning (Good)
• Quality of provision for pupils’ spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development (Outstanding)
• The behaviour of pupils (Outstanding)
• The overall welfare, health, and safety of pupils (Outstanding)
• Overall effectiveness of leadership and management (Outstanding)