GEMS Jumeirah Primary School, (or as it more affectionately known), JPS first opened its doors in 1996 and ever since then, it has developed a reputation as being one of the finest primary schools in the Dubai. With this in mind, I was delighted to be invited to the school a few weeks ago to learn more about their new approaches to Maths and English.
When I’d arrived at the school, I was greeted by Mrs. Fiona Nicholson, the Senior Assistant Principal. She’d arranged for me to meet key staff and even some of the pupils so I could learn more about their new approaches as well as see some examples of their work.
Ms. Scarlett Harvey is JPS’ enthusiastic Maths Coordinator. She explained how they wanted pupils to develop a much deeper understanding of mathematical concepts and to spend more time on key topics. This would build greater mastery, understanding and engagement. The team had investigated the methods of leading Singapore and Shanghai Mathematics and also incorporated the ‘Maths Mastery’ approach from the National Center for Excellence in Teaching in Math (NCETM) from the UK.
The aims of the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) are to raise levels of achievement in maths, and to increase appreciation of the power and wonder of maths, across the school, sixth form college and further education system.
Now at JPS, they believe they have created a unique Maths programme which incorporates the best of all 3 models to meet the needs of their pupils so that they enhance their understanding, performance and enjoyment of mathematics. I enjoyed listening to the process the mathematics team had went through in order to build up their own curriculum approach. This showed they understood their students, their school as well as the need to constantly push their standards higher.
When I met with some of the students in the school, I was impressed with how well they were able to explain their maths lessons, describing specific mathematical and problem-solving strategies and even showing me samples of their work. This revealed that the students were reaching high levels of critical thinking and were able to analyse different mathematical processes.
(IMAGE: students break down their maths problem using visuals to understand its components)
Next, I met with the English team to learn about their outstanding literacy programme. Enter Ms. Scarlett Christley the Year 3 teacher and English Committee Leader and Ms. Louise Usher, the Head of English and Assistant Principal. They were extremely open and excited to share the journey they went on in their quest to implement new and positive changes in their English teaching. As a result, the school decided to enhance their literacy with new and focused practises.
First, they updated their guided reading programme to closely monitor and develop students’ comprehension. From my own experience as a literacy specialist and researcher, I know that reading comprehension is often given little emphasis in most schools so I was extremely pleased to hear that these teachers knew about the impact of reading comprehension and they were focusing on developing this with their students.
They’d also introduced the teaching of different types of writing (genres) so that students become skilled in specific techniques for writing as well as their purposes. The teachers also encouraged students to practise their writing over an extended period of time and then they were required to compare their earlier pieces of work to monitor their progress and to check for specific targets. This approach to writing enabled students to build more fluency but also to have clear ways of monitoring students’ progress over time.
I was able to see student writing samples and could see some of the writing prompts and checklists that were used to support students in their work.
JPS Yearly Overview of Writing Types
JPS also has a wonderful initiative which is monthly Parent Mornings where key staff share what they are doing at JPS, and why with parents being kept informed with all the new approaches. In this way, they feel part of the process and can support their children at home.
Some pupils ranging from Yr2 – Yr 6 shared what they liked and were learning in Math and Literacy this year. See their videos below!
On my walk through the school, I also visited an Arabic classroom and was very pleased to see a well-stocked leveled reading library of Arabic books with the teacher delivering a guided reading lesson to students. This was wonderful to see. The school is trying to apply the same successful strategies for English literacy to Arabic literacy.
The Arabic Majilis and Arabic Book Room
I also noticed that the school was beginning to grow their selection of books in other languages for their bilingual pupils. Although JPS has a strong British feel and culture, they also recognize that their pupils come from a variety of backgrounds and languages.
My visit passed very quickly – the enthusiasm and energy shared by the teachers and students at JPS was contagious!
I was impressed with the school’s desire to continuously develop their programmes and I was also happy to see that the staff clearly enjoyed teaching. Students too, were excited to share their work and discuss what they’re learning at school.
(Click image to hear Dylan explain what he's learning in maths at JPS)
(Click image to hear Ralph explain what he's doing in Literacy at JPS)
I would really encourage prospective parents to visit the school and find out more about JPS’ programmes and approaches. The school is well-established so it’s a good idea to apply early if you’d like your child to attend the school.
To book or enquire about a school tour, please contact the school via telephone 04 394 3500 or email reception at firstname.lastname@example.org