The JESS Jumeirah School…A leader in ICT integration & promoting student leadership

Mrs Ruth Burke, Principal at JESS Jumeirah English Speaking School.

JESS Jumeirah is a school with very high standards and expectations; a school where children and adults are challenged to be the best that they can be! Set on a large, established campus, JESS pupils have space and opportunities to work and play in a stimulating learning environment.” – excerpt from Head Teacher, Mrs Ruth Burke’s message on the JESS Jumeirah website

The JESS Jumeirah School is one of two schools under the Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS) umbrella. The sprawling campus, which is located near Safa Park in Dubai, is known for its outstanding academic performance, as evidenced in their inspection reports over the years.

JESS Jumeirah has been lauded for innovation and successful leadership at all levels. It is noted that the school enjoys a vibrant relationship with parents, students, teachers and non- teaching staff. In addition to these strong attributes, the school has implemented the effective use of technology, significantly adding to its continued academic success.

“One of the ways in which we empower our teachers is by allowing them to make the decisions about what they are going to teach,” said Mrs Burke, Head Teacher at JESS Jumeirah, “So, rather than the model where teachers are teaching a curriculum, we are very much a school where teachers are teaching the children.”

She elaborated by saying, “all our teachers are lead learners who are in charge of their classrooms. As lead learners, the teachers are empowered to look at what their children need to learn. It is not so much about simply following a curriculum anymore. Through formative and summative assessments, the teachers are able to define what the curriculum for particular groups of children is, as well as give focus to the needs of individual students within the classroom.”

According to Mrs Burke, teachers are encouraged to share their thoughts and ideas on projects that will benefit their growth, that of their students, colleagues and the school. They are given numerous opportunities to do this during the school week. Teachers are involved in school groups, which include assessment groups that look at assessments from ages 3-18 within JESS. They are also urged to take opportunities that will enhance their professional and personal development. As such, a number of teachers have done presentations at the What Works Conferences, which are held by the KHDA (Knowledge and Human development Authority). They have also written articles on education for magazines such as Teach UAE Magazine.

“The aim is to get teachers out there, so they can get involved and make a difference,” she continues, “through meta-cognition, they are able to deepen their own understanding of what’s going on in their own classrooms.”

A key element to the success of any institution is the establishment of solid relationships between all stakeholders. JESS Jumeirah has found a formula that works very well in securing and maintaining meaningful relationships on all levels.

Students sit around to do a drawing of a camel during the 2013 National Day festivities. (Photo courtesy of JESS Jumeirah)

“We have a culture in the school. Picture a triad where the child is in the centre and then you have the staff, the parents and the school. We all work together and this has added to our success. Right before the children start school, we have meetings where we explain our expectations and routines, so parents have a good understanding of what it is to be a member of the JESS community,” stated Mrs Burke.

To facilitate this, each fortnight, learning objectives are sent to parents to keep them updated on what their children are learning in the various subjects. It is important to note that the school’s senior management team (SMT) welcomes students at the gate each school day. This means that SMT and specialist teachers are accessible. It allows for both parties to interact with each other in an informal setting where small queries and lighter issues can be addressed.

“Parents are welcomed into the classroom during the first few years of school. This allows them to be in the learning environment where they can see the expectations, learning displays and resources. They are also able to see first-hand, as a teacher interacts with their child and other children. This means that if there is an issue, it can be dealt with promptly before it becomes a formal problem,” Mrs Burke shared.