One Year On

The school opened its doors in September 2018. Principal/CEO Nigel Cropley looks back over the school’s first year and shares his vision for the years ahead.

How would you describe GEMS Founders School – Al Mizhar’s first year?
The first year has gone incredibly well. Bearing in mind that we opened with 1,540 students, all new students, all new parents, and all new staff. I’m very proud of where we’ve got to in our first year.

What are your top three highlights from the year?
We’ve had many. One of the great events we had was International Day. The reason that was so positive was that it was mostly organised by our newly formed parent association. They did an amazing job and it was a time where you really felt that the school had a community.

The second was our first-ever National Day, which was very similar. We’re in a predominantly Emirati area and many of our parents got involved. It will be even better next year, there’s no doubt about that. But once again we were able to open our doors to our community and we really want this to be a community school. Because of the location, we have a real possibility of that happening.

The other thing that really stands out for me was probably the first week of the school, when we opened our doors and welcomed all those eager students. Within the first couple of weeks, some of our FS students were crying at the end of the day, not because they were sad or because something happened at school, but because they didn’t want to go home. That was special. From coming in the first couple of days and being a bit scared and crying for reasons you don’t want — everything being so new and so big and being away from mum and dad – to within a couple of weeks crying because they don’t actually want to go home. For a school to have students want to be there that badly is very powerful.

What is your vision for the school moving forward?
I want the school to have a good, community feel in terms of wanting the students, the teachers, and the school staff to be happy. I really want to work on being kind to one another within our school and most importantly make sure that every child has a pathway for them to succeed in the future. I think that’s our moral responsibility as educators to make sure we don’t fail any single child, and no matter their challenges they have a pathway where they will succeed.

We continue to expand — we’re looking at taking in around 800 new students next year and with that come many more opportunities, more people in our community but obviously new challenges around keeping consistency with what we’re doing and spreading our positive message.

How would you describe the team ethos at GFM?
It’s very positive. I think it really helps when you start a school and everybody feels that they’re in it together; one team on one journey.
I try to interview and recruit people that I feel have that growth mindset, that can-do attitude, and positivity. All the staff have an awful lot thrown at them and they cope very well, keeping in mind many of them are very young and for some it’s their first time away from home. I’m very proud and pleased with how they have coped with the enormous pressure that they’ve been under in year one.

What sets GFM apart from other schools in the area?
It’s warmth. One of the comments that we get from parents on school tours is the very open and friendly atmosphere. The senior leadership team has an open-door policy and we try our level best to have all the classroom doors open at all times. We welcome people into the school. We have set an ethos in the school where teachers can expect somebody to walk into their room for an informal look at what’s going on at any time. We want to build a relationship of trust. We’re also all learning together so if something’s not going quite right, we can do something about it.