GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis’ head of secondary sport Stuart Booth says it is an “honour” for his school to have been shortlisted for the 2019 SchoolsCompared.com Best School for Sport award.
The winner of the award, which recognises schools in the UAE that show outstanding commitment to, and passion for, sport will be revealed at the SchoolsCompared.com Awards Ceremony at the Rajmahal Theatre Dubai on the 7th of March.
And, Booth explains, everyone at WSO is thrilled to be nominated for such a prestigious accolade:
“Awards like this don’t come much bigger,” he said. “To have made the shortlist is amazing – that alone is a major accomplishment considering all the other schools we have in the UAE.
“This is very special as SchoolsCompared.com have been in and looked at what we offer and have seen everything first-hand, but they also take into account the views of parents and students.
“This is a very real award, chosen by people that live and work in Dubai and the UAE.”
There are numerous factors that have contributed to the success of the sports programme at the school but, ultimately, none of it would be possible without the effort and commitment of the staff at WSO:
“It means so much to me and the department,” Booth said. “It’s great as a Head of Department for my colleagues to be recognised in this way, which they fully deserve.
“We have an inclusive department which supports all but also allows elites the chance to progress.
“I think the changes we have made to the curriculum have helped each and every child feel supported and bring enjoyment to every lesson, which helps us towards our long-term goal of each child being able to lead a healthy and active lifestyle.
“Adding on to the wide range on offer in the curriculum, we have an extensive squad training and lunch time club schedule, which gives students access to more than 40 different opportunities to play sport each week.”
This has been a particularly progressive year for WSO sports; as well as launching the WSO Rugby Academy (a new programme designed to help players take the next step in the sport) they’re also the UAE centre for the Sports Leaders UK award and run a Sports Development Academy out of the school, which aims to help the sports stars of tomorrow by providing them with the knowledge, skills and mindset to tackle the challenges they may face on the road to success.
This year is also the year that the school launched the WSO Falcons, which is the new brand name for all sports in the academy.
Booth said: “The new design and name was run as a competition within the school and this was important to us and the sports squads as we are trying to build a sporting community in school and want every player, parent and coach to feel part of the culture we are building here.
The hard work and positive attitude around the club has certainly paid off this year; there's been success for many of the Falcon’s teams but, as Booth explains, accolades are only a small part of what the school prides itself on:
“We - like other schools - have had success in various different sports,” he said. “We have football champions across different age groups and have had success at different tournaments, but we really pride ourselves on opportunities given and the conduct of the teams both on and off the pitch.
“We believe that winning and losing in the correct way is more important than winning at all costs.
“The biggest highlight for myself would have to be the U12 and U13 Academy Rugby team being invited to the HSBC Rugby Festival 2019 - WSO Falcons were the only school invited to this club competition in the UAE.”
Moving forward – no matter what happens at the SchoolsCompared.com Awards next month – there’s plenty for the Falcon teams to sink their claws into:
“We will continue to build both our boys and girls rugby squads and, although we are not knocking on the door of the big rugby schools yet, they need to keep an eye over their shoulder,” Booth revealed. “Also, the netball team are in the best physical condition I have seen since being at the school and I’m sure they will cause a few upsets over the season.
“We have the upcoming BSAK football tournaments, where we’ll have a strong team in the U12 boys; the U16 athletics team is looking strong and I’m sure they will have success in the GEMS Sports Series and the DASSA competitions.
“The U13 boys cricket team have made a promising start to the season so we’ll be watching their development closely later in the year.”
A full list of nominations for next months SchoolsCompared.com Awards can be found here.