Jonathan Dey

The Principal and CEO of GEMS Al Barsha National School for Boys discusses the school’s vision to develop the UAE’s leaders of tomorrow.

Jonathan DeyTell us about your background and how you came to be principal at GEMS Al Barsha National School for Boys (NSB).
I’ve been in education for 26 years. After seven years as a head teacher in the UK I came out to Dubai as the Vice-Principal and Head of Primary at GEMS Wellington International School (WIS). After a couple of years at WIS, I became the founding Principal of GEMS Wellington International School — Qatar (WSQ). I later came back as a consultant principal and worked with GEMS Founders School — Al Barsha (GFS) to support its growth, and then I moved across in that consultant principal role to GEMS Al Barsha National Schools for Girls and Boys (NSB and NSG), overseeing both schools and for a short time I was acting principal of both the schools. Last April I decided to take on and maintain the full principal’s role at NSB.

What makes NSB special?
We are a flagship school for Emirati education, and we offer a strong bilingual programme. It’s a global market and our students are going to compete against international graduates. They will need the skills that come from bilingual education, and strength in English is going to be essential. Many university courses now are run by international lecturers; you can’t always get an Arabic lecturer. Our parents want their sons to have the values of hard work, discipline, good manners, good morals, as well as being strong academically. Our parents also want an immersion in UAE culture which they don’t find in international schools. They want their sons to feel proud of who they are. They want to build pride in the nation, and we are lucky enough to have a strong emphasis on cultural Islamic values.

We are a flagship school for Emirati education, and we offer a strong bilingual programme. It’s a global market and our students are going to compete against international graduates.

What is the vision for the school?
We want to make sure that we can offer pathways and internships to develop workplace skills so our young men can build up their CVs, but also understand at 16 and 17 what it is to be a worker. Their parents want them to have the skills to be international businessmen and compete against international graduates. Even with Emiratisation, the private sector companies will still want the best — they want bilingual graduates with work skills, drive, and passion for their industry. We want our young men to leave with those skills.

What is your leadership style?
I believe in a distributive leadership style. I think there are times there are key areas such as health and safety that are non-negotiable. Those are put across firmly and with no negotiation. We have great senior and middle leaders and I am comfortable with their abilities in terms of delegating responsibility. I’m happy for them to drive their teams and their departments.

Who inspires you?
My parents. I’m Irish Indian, which is interesting in the year of tolerance. When my parents came to the UK from their home countries in the 60s, it was a time of prejudice. My father was one of the earliest non-English barristers in London and he had to fight to find his way. My mother, coming from Ireland, faced the same discrimination. I think about the hard work and perseverance that my parents showed to create very successful careers in law and nursing. When I reflect on myself, I think my morality of purpose comes from them.

GEMS Al Barsha National School for Boys