Dubai school becomes first in UAE to achieve Unified Champion School status

Students of all abilities can play a variety of sports as part of WSO’s Unified Sports programme
GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis has been recognised by Special Olympics UAE for normalising whole school inclusion

Dubai, Dec 28, 2021: GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis (WSO) has been recognised by Special Olympics UAE as the first Unified Champion School in the UAE. 

The Unified Champion Schools Programme was launched by Special Olympics UAE in 2019 and was designed to make sports and youth leadership in public and private schools across the UAE more inclusive for all students. The programme aims to integrate students with intellectual and learning difficulties with their peers and other students in an inclusive, supportive school environment where all can thrive. 

GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis has received special recognition for its programme of unified sports which sees students of all abilities playing together.

More than 280 schools in the UAE have signed up for the programme since launch, and schools can become a Unified School if at least one unified sport is offered in one semester. Schools that progress to becoming a Unified Champion School demonstrate inclusive youth leadership and whole-school engagement and equip students and teachers with tools and resources to create a climate of inclusion in classrooms and sports pitches.

The school began its Unified Champion School journey by creating inclusive basketball clubs where students of determination and school athletes played side-by-side as unified partners. Strong friendships and supportive sports teams were formed and the school organised a multi-sport tournament where students on the sports leadership programme worked with students of determination. The school has also pledged to host the annual Unified Cup sports tournament every year.

Matthew Thomas, Head of Physical Education, GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis, who leads the school’s inclusive sports programme says, “The Unified Sports programme at WSO has changed the mind-set of students and made the whole school community even more compassionate.”

Khawla Barley, Head of Initiatives, Special Olympics UAE, says: “The Unified Champion Schools programme is designed to create meaningful change across schools and communities.  The programme is designed to develop climates of acceptance through three main pillars: Unified Sports, Inclusive Youth Leadership and Whole School Engagement. WSO successfully achieved this, in particular with their Unified Sports programming, and we are confident that together we can share the values of this programme to schools across the country.”