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Dubai's private schools will end all distance learning on October 3, after which pupils must return to classrooms.
There will be a gradual return from the first day of term on August 29, when children can return to classrooms or learn from home.
Five weeks into the term, in-person classes will be obligatory for all, the Dubai Government Media Office said.
No pupils are required to be vaccinated to return to school and no regular testing is mandatory, the city's education regulator KHDA said. Social distancing of one metre is recommended, but not mandated.
Eligible school staff who do not wish to have the vaccine must submit a negative PCR test each week.
The education regulator said: “From the start of the academic year until September 30, parents will have the choice of distance learning or face-to-face learning for their children. From October 3, 2021, all teaching and learning at Dubai private schools will be face-to-face only.
“After this date, students who wish to continue with distance learning must provide a medical certificate issued by Dubai Health Authority.
“Class groups or grade/year levels may temporarily switch to distance learning if positive cases of Covid-19 are detected.”
Provided they comply with health and safety protocols, the following activities may also resume:
— Swimming and sports lessons
— School trips, excursions and camps
— After-hours extra-curricular activities
— Performances, assemblies and other events at school or at an external venue
— Changing rooms and sports areas will be sanitised after each group of pupils leaves.
— School vehicles can run at full capacity, as long as they are ventilated and cleaned after journeys
“We continue to live in uncertain times, and the relaxation in restrictions is a privilege,” KHDA said.
“To continue to enjoy these freedoms throughout the academic years it is crucial that students, parents and school staff fully comply with the protocols at all times.”
The decision is expected to be welcomed by the city's schools, which have sought to return to in-person learning. At the end of last term, just 52 per cent of pupils were in classrooms, with the remainder opting to study from home.
Fiona Cottam, principal of Hartland International School in Dubai, said, “After a year of necessary restrictions I can already hear the shouts of joy as swimming, school productions, trips and visits can resume.
“Of course we know that we must continue with safety protocols but ensuring that all children are in school in the safety of the environments that our schools all work so hard to provide is the sensible and logical next step on our road to some greater normality.”
James Monaghan, principal of North London Collegiate School (NLCS) said, “To have the students back at school and being able to engage in assemblies, trips and extra curricular activities is wonderful for their well-being, learning and continued development as young people.
“The suggested protocols of testing and vaccinations is also a vote of confidence in the way schools have provided a safe environment since the pandemic began."
Brett Girven, principal at the Arbor School said the “KHDA guidelines were optimistic, measured and reasonable.”
“They put the onus back on schools to take care of their community, something we are very good at, whilst ensuring a heightened level of awareness remains.
“Schools will need time to respond and ensure they can manage the logistics of the updated guidelines.
“The welcome return of sports, events, extra-curricula activities will make everyone happy, and we can now get on with the business of making sure children enjoy all of the opportunities a school can offer.
“The transition period to 100 per cent face-face will again need a little management, as will the logistics of having to check vaccination status for parents at drop off, but this can be managed with some careful planning.
“Regular PCR testing would be an inconvenience and additional cost for all, despite the added veneer of security it may present, so I am pleased that our community will not have to go through that process.”