Dubai Police proposes school day starts later to tackle rush-hour congestion

Take our poll: The head of Dubai's traffic police took to Twitter to ask the public what they thought about delaying the start of school to 9am to ease traffic congestion.

A school bus travels down Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai. Parents are questioning whether the proposal for later school hours would affect bus fees. Pawan Singh / The National
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DUBAI // School principals and parents have offered a lukewarm reception to a police proposal to change school starting times in a bid to ease traffic congestion.

News of the suggestion quickly spread across the Dubai school community on Monday after the head of Dubai’s traffic police, Lt Gen Mohammed Saif Al Zafeen, asked the public via Twitter for opinions about delaying the start of school to 9am to help ease the congestion.

“I don’t think traffic should dictate school timings,” said Tim Waley, the principal of Uptown School. “We find children learn better early in the day and the later you keep them, the more tired they get.”

Mr Waley felt that starting school an hour later would only prolong the day for pupils and staff.

“Parents going to work early would have no choice but to drop their kids off early, even if school started later,” he said.

To supervise the children being present early, staff would still have to come to work at the same time, changing little in the amount of early traffic.

The principal of Greenfield Community School, Angie Hollington, agreed that traffic should not be the priority when it comes to school timings.

“What should matter the most in school timings are the children and the environment,” she said.

Having worked in the education field in numerous countries including England, Belgium and Tanzania, she said climate greatly influenced school hours.

“In Tanzania, we would start at 7am and finish at 2pm because it was too hot,” she said.

“Even though we have AC in the UAE, students are still affected by the heat and they start to get tired later in the day,” added Mr Waley.

Changing school times would also have an impact on parents and family time as whole, said Yvonne Smith, a working mother-of-two whose children attend Nibras International School.

With the current school schedules, the Smith family were able to wake up at the same time, have breakfast together and leave in the same vehicle, as Mr Smith first drops off the children first and then his wife.

“If school started at 9am, we wouldn’t see the children in the morning, and we would also have to pay more fees for the school bus going to as well as coming from school,” Mrs Smith said.

Similar proposals were tested in Al Ain in April last year, where traffic, accidents and pollution prompted the authorities to stagger school times for more than 20,000 pupils.

After a successful six-month trial period, the adjusted timings were made permanent last November.