Longer days for many Dubai schools as new term and shorter working week start

Schools across the country are altering lesson timetables and breaks

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Teachers and pupils across the UAE will return to school on Monday to start a new term and the new four-and-a-half-day week.

Schools have been altering lesson timetables and breaks to align with the new shorter week.

Head teachers were advised by education authorities that they could extend the school day to make up for the half day lost on Fridays, but schools will shut no later than midday on the last day of the week.

At Taaleem’s American Academy for Girls in Dubai, principal Lisa Johnson said there had been talk of a new working week for some time, so the school had a good idea of where and how to restructure.

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American Academy for Girls will extend the school day by 20 minutes to ensure there is adequate time to cover the curriculum
Lisa Johnson, principal, American Academy for Girls

“American Academy for Girls will extend the school day by 20 minutes to ensure there is adequate time to cover the curriculum,” she said.

“We also combined some of our pastoral classes [those that address well-being and emotional welfare] to lower the frequency but allow for longer periods that will be held on Fridays.

“We chose not to simply shift our classes forward a day, so a great deal of time has been invested in modifying our master schedule to accommodate the half day.”

With a largely Emirati population at the school, Ms Johnson said that initially some pupils and parents had expressed concern about the new schedule over concerns that it would affect prayer times on Fridays. But once the new schedule was shared, it was welcomed.

Michael Lambert, principal at Dubai College. Chris Whiteoak / The National

At Dubai College, headmaster Michael Lambert said prior to the change, the school had broadly maintained Dubai's "historical early finish on a Thursday".

“As such, we have taken a pragmatic approach to the new working week by shifting each day forward and reducing our extended break time and our Friday lessons by five minutes to accommodate these new requirements,” he said.

“This will not significantly impact curriculum time for pupils and will allow us to comply immediately.

“I, for one, am looking forward to using the additional time on Friday afternoons for my own personal development.”

Dr Sheela Menon, principal at Ambassador School in Dubai, said very little has been tweaked at her campus to adjust to the shorter school week.

"As a school, we are very much in alignment with the new four-and-a-half-day week,” she said.

“From Monday to Thursday, our timings remain from 7.30am to 2pm. On Mondays, however, our middle and senior school pupils will stay back until 4pm.

“Considering the unusual times that we are in, mental well-being of all remains a priority, therefore we decided to make few to no changes to the existing timetable for the remaining months of the academic year."

In Abu Dhabi, pupils will switch to distance learning for the first two weeks of term to limit the spread of Covid-19, while schools in other emirates will resume in-person lessons.

Speaking to The National earlier, Fiona Cottam, principal at Hartland International School, said the pandemic had taught school leaders to adapt to change with speed.

“It may be a matter of maybe 100 minutes a week, but we're doing some tweaks and modifications to the timetable to make that work,” she said.

“That's probably the biggest logistical change.”

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Updated: January 3rd 2022, 6:28 AM