Career option: The new GEMS sports academy which will operate from GEMS Wellington Academy currently will offer IB diplomas Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: In a first-of-its kind move for the UAE, the GEMS Education group has launched a new sports academy which will give students a chance to follow a unique two-year structured programme in academics and sports.

Speaking to XPRESS ahead of the announcement, James Tucker, sports director of the new academy, said registrations for the upcoming term in September have already begun.

The school, which will initially operate from the GEMS Wellington Academy in Dubai Silicon Oasis, will eventually move to its own dedicated campus.

Designed along the lines of the US college system and the Premier League model, the academy will provide the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma programme with athletics being part of the normal timetable.

Major activities

Tucker said: “We will have 12-13 hours of specialised athletic development. Training will be provided not just in track and field activities, but also golf, football, rugby, tennis, basketball and netball. Subjects like PT, nutrition and the like can also be pursued as majors within the curriculum. ”

He said the idea behind the model is not only to create professional athletes but also to prepare them to move to high level sporting universities in the West.

Admissions for 2014-15 will be restricted to Year 12 (equivalent Grade 11), with more classes being added over time. Years 10 and 11 (equivalent Grades 9 and 10) will be introduced in 2015-16.

To be eligible for the September term, Tucker said: “Students should have completed high school and they will have to undergo a rigorous test of their athletic ability. The student must show professionalism and be diligent in their school, sport and life. All prospective students must submit a completed application, including academic records and recommendations.”

He said the response as registrations begin for the first year – which will have 15-20 seats – has been overwhelming.

While students will have to take regular IB exams, they will be separately assessed on how they meet their sport targets and goals.

He said the school will maintain a low student-teacher ratio, with the sports faculty comprising former professional coaches and academic teachers being drawn from the GEMS IB pool.

Fees for the programme will be Dh70,000 a year.