Siobhan Dickerson, the Director of Specialism and Careers and Higher Education Advisor at GEMS FirstPoint School – The Villa, speaks about how the school works with its students to develop industry-based skills such as compassion, creativity, and entrepreneurship
Tell us about this initiative that involves a student of yours, who aspires to become the next prime minister of the UK.
GEMS FirstPoint School – The Villa prides itself on developing every student to be the best they can be in any field they choose to pursue. We currently have many different initiatives and curriculum options that allow children to pursue their dreams, including those beyond the classroom such as Esports, video game design, and golf. For students interested in politics, finance, and journalism, we have fostered a relationship with the Financial Times (FT) in London, and have just completed our second year of their Student Advocate programme.
This allows a student from GEMS FirstPoint to work on projects for the FT, aiding them in better developing student engagement with finance and politics, while also providing them with a mentor. Our most recent advocate, Rajan Sehmi, worked with the FT alongside teachers and students in school to see how more financial and political awareness can be brought through the school curriculum.
As part of his work, Rajan met with students to really listen to their thoughts about how news is conveyed by the press and digested by the youth. Completing this internship has enabled Rajan to successfully apply for the coveted post of Deputy Chairman (Political) for Weybridge & Riverside Conservative Branch Association in the UK. By working with our Director of Specialism to create a letter of application and a portfolio of his experiences, he was successfully appointed in February 2021.
In this post, he has formulated and gathered policy advice sent directly to the UK Prime Minister’s Office, created a political strategy for Weybridge & Riverside branch, and will continue to investigate local issues and report to Association Officers and Agents.
Becoming the next prime minister of the UK includes lots of challenges and hard work. How is GEMS FirstPoint focusing on honing the skillsets of the student to help him get closer to his dream?
GEMS FirstPoint has a personalised curriculum for all. By regularly updating our curriculum offer, we can adapt and facilitate subjects that our students ask for. To support our future leaders, we have added A-level Politics to our post-16 courses, and this is taught by one of our senior staff. Alongside the taught subjects, GEMS FirstPoint has a competency-based framework where all students from the Foundation Years (age 3 and up) to Year 13 (age 18) work on developing their industry-based skills such as compassion, creativity, and entrepreneurship.
These competencies are delivered through, and alongside, traditional learning and each child keeps a portfolio of evidence to showcase where they have displayed these skills and attributes. The portfolios contain photographs, certificates of achievement, evidence of sporting prowess, and any other proof that a child has gone above and beyond their regular lessons. At GEMS FirstPoint, we are creating world-ready global citizens, and every teacher strives to support their students to be the very best they can be. Our year-on-year results show strong improvement, and our students are becoming more and more successful not just on paper but also as considerate and balanced human beings.
How does your school identify talented students to encourage them to achieve their goals?
GEMS FirstPoint has a dedicated team of staff to identify students who show talents and strengths in any area of the curriculum and also in their extra-curricular activities. We have a data-driven process to identify talent, but we also engage with our parents, who know their children’s past achievements. Every child at our school has limitless potential: by knowing each child individually we can bend and shape our lessons and our extra-curricular offerings to meet their needs. Having a family-first approach enables us to be part of the lives of our children and their families, and we all celebrate their successes.
What sort of teaching method has your school adopted to help students come up with creative and innovative ideas?
GEMS FirstPoint is always a hub for new and innovative ideas to support teaching, stretch our students, and ensure learning is fun. We review our curriculum continuously and have adopted BTEC Esports and BTEC Game Design this year to provide opportunities for those students who want to develop skills in one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. As an example, in our younger years, we offer a Desert School experience, and across all years, children participate in activities linked to enterprise.
Our Principal/CEO, Matthew Tompkins, makes sure that the school and its resources are of the highest possible standard: we are proud to have a full-size climbing wall and a fully immersive classroom on our site, available for students to use as part of lessons for extra-curricular opportunities. As the GEMS Centre of Excellence for Digital Industries, we also support our students to access external courses with the likes of Microsoft, IBM, Amazon, EtonX, and more.
We are the first school in the region to introduce long-term internships for our students, and this has enabled them to gain real-world experience beyond their age group. We have had a variety of interns supported by local and global organisations, as well as parents, including Schneider Electric, Mirai Partners, and Siemens.
Which school curriculum does the school follow? What sort of extra-curricular activities does the school provide in order to offer a 360-degree approach that goes beyond just learning?
GEMS FirstPoint follows the British curriculum. The depth of its coverage and ability to specialise has supported the development of our future global leaders. We are also incredibly well supported by the KHDA Rahhal Programme, which allows more flexibility in the design and specialisation of students’ timetables. Through our personalised pathways for each student to the hundreds of different extra-curricular activities we offer, every child has the potential to be successful, no matter what their interest or level of expertise.
By working with our parents, our community, and our partners in the industry we can provide a fully holistic educational experience that is truly bespoke for each child. By thinking about students as young people and placing them at the heart of all we do, we have developed a school that doesn’t merely prepare students for exams, but for their futures as well.