Westminster School Dubai to shut down

GEMS-operated Westminster School in Dubai is refusing to accept any more applications as the operator has announced that it will be shutting down the education institute in June 2014.

“We are not accepting applications as we may shut down,” the admissions officer at the school told Emirates 24|7.

News that close to 5,000 Dubai students will be shunted out of their school in mid-2014 comes at a time when many newly-arrived parents are already scrambling to find a place for their wards in Dubai schools.

Parents have been informed about the closure but it’s a hard decision for them to move their wards out, taking into account that admission in Dubai schools is not an easy task and most of them are expected to be a pricier option than their current school.

Dino Varkey, the Group Executive Director at GEMS Education, told parents in an emailed letter that the operator’s “ability to invest the resources required to produce the improvements needed, both educationally and in infrastructure, have been severely restricted because of the current fee structure.”

Dubai’s largest private education provider GEMS had announced in October this year that it will be opening 10 new schools in Dubai in order to meet the growing demand.

“All they want is to increase the fees. Who suffers in this mess? The students and the staff will be displaced,” said a parent on the condition of anonymity.

In a statement issued in October, GEMS had said that the new schools it plans to open in the next 24 months will have British, Indian, International Baccalaureate, American and dual curricula across a range of fee levels.

Parents of students at Westminster Dubai, some of whom enrolled their children in the school primarily because of the low fee structure, are a worried lot.

“I moved my two kids out of Modern [High School Dubai] after they increased the fee by nearly 100 per cent [in 2010]. I opted for this school because the fee was within my budget. Sadly, after two years, I’ll be scouting for another school and there are very few options to choose from as schooling is so expensive here,” said another parent from India.

Parents are worried that getting their children a place in other schools will also be difficult. “They (GEMS) are saying our children will be given priority but it doesn’t confirm a place. It’s very difficult on the parents,” added a mother of a third-grader.

GEMS has in fact said in its circular to parents that Westminster Dubai’s primary school students will be given “priority placement” in The Westminster school, Ras Al Khaimah, which obviously won’t be a very attractive option for Dubai residents of students as young as 5-years old.

The statement released by the education provider states that over the past five years, the average fee increase in the school, per annum, has been just Dh167.

That equates to around Dh13 a month and for two of the past five years there has been no fee increase at all.

“We simply cannot offer a high quality education at this level that we see as our duty to provide. Indeed, salary increases during the same period have been at a level higher than any fee awards.

“Sadly and with regret, it is therefore, our intention to close The Westminster School Dubai with effect from June 2014. KHDA has provided the necessary approvals,” said the circular.