Hundreds of thousands of private school pupils across the UAE returned to class for the first day of the new academic year on Monday.
Schools in Dubai held various events for pupils, including flash mobs at The Indian High School, a treasure hunt at Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai and a superhero day at Citizens Schools.
The Indian High School greeted 13,000 returning pupils with much fanfare across its three Dubai branches, treating them to song and dance on day one.
Head teachers expressed their excitement at having children back on campus after nearly all Covid-19 restrictions were removed.
However, teachers and pupils are still required to wear masks indoors.
Superhero day at this new school
At one of Dubai’s new private schools opening doors on Monday, Batman and Ninja Turtles were in attendance as pupils dressed up for superhero day at the school.
All 200 pupils were at new, with many families having recently moved to the UAE, and the school planned a day of activities to help pupils to settle in and unleash their creativity.
“Our first day of activities are fun. We are having all of our learners and our mentors dressed in superhero costumes, and getting in touch with their inner superpower,” said Tracy Moxley, principal at Citizens School.
“It is an opportunity for children to really dive into their own imagination and come up with their own superhero, or they can choose a superhero that they particularly identify with.
“We are really trying to make sure our pupils feel comfortable with their surroundings and just have a lot of fun on the first day.”
Younger pupils have a flexible start and finish, and parents can drop pupils off from 7.30am, although they will have until 8.40am to come to school before classes start.
She said the first week was all about ensuring pupils are used to the campus and delve into some project-based and play-based learning, while also getting pupils to work together.
Flash mobs and holiday stories at The Indian High School
Punit MK Vasu, chief executive of The Indian High Group of Schools, said “all our 13,000-plus students rolled through the entry gates this morning, bright, happy, excited and full of life”.
He said pupils were greeted and cheered along by the school's leaders and teachers, who waved welcome bands and placards.
There were dancing flash mobs, singers and musicians, with cameras on hand to capture the reactions of pupils and writing walls to document their thoughts.
Pupils took pictures with friends against “welcome back” props and in photo booths.
The school put together something called “WOW”, or the week of welcome, and festivities at the school will run for an entire week.
“This is the first time [since the beginning of the pandemic that] we can actually welcome pupils the way we want, to welcome them without any restrictions other than the masks indoors. I think it is a huge deal. So, we want to celebrate that,” said Mr Vasu.
“For us music and dance [are] almost a hallmark of how we welcome pupils because [they] speak across cultures genders, and age groups.
“We are now back to the right normal where pupils and teachers can safely enjoy being back to school”
On day one, around 59 pupils took part in a flash mob, dancing to popular Bollywood songs as they greeted their returning peers.
“It is a fresh start for the new team and I am excited for all the activities they have planned to welcome us back,” said Drishti Kithani, 17, a grade 12 pupil at the school.
“We had a flash mob today when we were entering the school.”
The pupil is in her last year of school and is looking forward to participating on Talent Day on Wednesday.
Krithi Reddy, head girl at the school and a grade 12 pupil, said she was looking forward to having a proper farewell at the school, and expects to participate in dance and debate competitions.
“I am very excited to be part of the welcome back activities. We have walls where we can write down all that we have done during the summer holidays,” Krithi said.
“The flash mob was really fun. It was entertaining and a surprise!”
Grade 11 pupil Shahyan Reddygoli, 15, was busy volunteering at the school early and said he was happy to be back.
Pupils over 12 need PCR tests in Abu Dhabi
Scott Carnochan, headmaster at Brighton College Al Ain, said pupils needed to upload the test results before they could enter school.
He said on the first day, up until about lunchtime, the focus would be on pastoral care, so lessons would not start until the afternoon.
“I think it is that structure of the first morning — making sure that they are familiar with the new teachers and each other. It is important that they begin to forge those really important relationships with their teachers and their peers,” said Mr Carnochan.
The school has about 100 new pupils and has a lot of pastoral activity planned to make sure that pupils are happy, settled and ready for the new academic year.
Focus on relationship-building on day one
Clare Turnbull, principal at Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai, said the school doubled its number of pupils to about 700 this year, from 350 in 2021.
“This is the best time of the year. It is so exciting to welcome returning pupils and new pupils to the school,” said Ms Turnbull.
She said new pupils would come in on day one and others would join on Tuesday.
“We spend a lot of time in the first week on relationships. It is all about making those new friends, re-engaging with our previous friends, getting to know your teachers. Because if you get those strong emotional bonds from day one, the rest of the year comes easily,” she said.
Some pupils will be involved in a big treasure hunt around the school on the first day back as they solve clues and look for their new classrooms.
A dive into studies at some schools
Gillian Hammond, principal of Repton Al Barsha, said the school had used the past week to train new and existing staff so they could make a deep dive into the curriculum when term started.
“We really wanted to start full throttle and be ready. We are hugely excited to get our pupils back in school,” said Ms Hammond.
On the first day, pupils will dive straight into timetables and academics, as the school does not wish to waste any curriculum time.