The GEMS Learning Trust is sponsored by our members, introduced below. We are also affiliated to GEMS Education. GEMS Education has provided high-quality, international education to over 142,000 children from 150 countries, for over 50 years.

GEMS Education dates back to 1959, when the company can trace its roots to a single school in Dubai, delivering education where there was no state provision. Today, the GEMS group owns and operates 46 schools, 30 of which are in the UAE, and five of which are based in the UK.


Our members


Jay Varkey, a member of the well known Varkey Family, has expertise in Business Development, with a focus in the GCC region. He is currently Group Executive Director and Board Member for GEMS Global. Having achieved his MA (Hons) from the University of Edinburgh, he began his Business Development role on a global basis with GEMS Education. This allowed him to develop professional and beneficial relationships with clients and partners both globally and regionally.  His knowledge and background in social infrastructure, especially in the education sector, leaves him well placed to support the GEMS Learning Trust on a voluntary basis.


Rebecca Plaskitt is Director of Education supporting GEMS schools in the UK and across Europe to achieve the highest standards of academic excellence.

Prior to taking up her current position, Rebecca lived and worked in the UAE in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, setting up a brand new 3-18 British Curriculum school in Abu Dhabi with an initial NOR of 1300 students. The school was a huge success and within three years of opening grew to 3200 students gaining a Band A rating from ADEC at the beginning of our third year of operation.

Rebecca was a Principal/Head Teacher in the UK for five years before making the decision to move into International Education in 2011 and has experience of the British Curriculum from EYFS to A Level and the International Baccalaureate DP.  She has also worked as a Local Leader in Education (LLE) and as a Professional Partner for the National College in the UK.



Former CEO of the Girls’ Day School Trust (and previously Education Director), Barbara Harrison has a breadth of experience across both private and public sectors, having been responsible for 14-19 education at a national level, served as Assistant Director of Education for a Local Authority and (prior to that) held senior positions in schools over a 20 year period.

Most recently, she served on the Mayor of London’s Education Enquiry, for which she has had an ongoing role in evaluating outcomes, is a Governance consultant for the NGA (National Governors Association), sits on a number of Boards (including having advised one of the Public Exam Boards on standards),  and works to support emerging federations, free schools and multi-academy trusts. She is also a former Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) Inspector. Barbara is an independent member of the GEMS Learning Trust.


Paulina is an experienced financial consultant with clients such as Credit Suisse and Working Capital Associates. She has helped Proactive Investors Group with funding rounds and has assisted in the development of Social Media Analytics for investment analysis. Paulina is also currently Finance and Audit Chair for the Barnsole Education Primary Academy Trust, in Kent. Paulina was attracted to GLT Member role as she has current experience as a MAT director and enjoys working in the education sector.


Rony Valeny is currently Head of Marine Services at Union Maritime Limited. Formerly Rony was the CEO of GEMS UK and Europe and was responsible for the quality and growth of GEMS’ independent schools in both regions. Formerly, Rony worked in the Deloitte Middle East Financial Advisory Practice, where he headed up the Technology, Media & Telecommunications division for the region following a decade with PricewaterhouseCoopers in London. Rony is a qualified chartered accountant with a proven track record advising corporate and private equity clients as well as lending banks. Rony lends his expertise to the Trust on a voluntary basis.