900 pupils assemble for Abu Dhabi school’s busiest year yet

Tuition-free institution proud of its inclusive approach to education.

“It’s been a busy time,” says Cheri Sanchez, the principal of Mubarak bin Mohammed School. “The teachers came back a week early and our leadership team were back a week before that, in their own time, to get ready.” Delores Johnson / The National
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ABU DHABI // The Mubarak bin Mohammed School has opened its doors for whatis set to be its busiest year, welcoming more than 900 students on the first day of the new term yesterday.

“It’s been a busy time,” said Cheri Sanchez, the principal. “The teachers came back a week early and our leadership team were back a week before that, in their own time, to get ready.”

The public school has enrolled an additional 300 pupils this year, with many switching from private schools.

“Some parents may choose to use private schools for kindergarten, but then we see a big influx of first-grade students coming in because they are no longer paying for tuition,” she said. “We are tuition-free here. Parents see what we have to offer and are attracted to that.

“Parents realise that they can get an equal or better education here, and we offer a great programme.”

One of the key features of the school is its inclusion of pupils with learning difficulties and special needs.

“Often we will get some pretty challenging children that may have been told they could not go to another school, but we will take them here,” Ms Sanchez said. “We want to make sure our doors are always open.

“We are careful to pay attention to the individual needs of students, particularly those with special needs.”

Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) has issued a new set of science lessons for this term, as well as changes to the way English and Arabic-language studies, art and maths are taught.

Each day, pupils at the school take half of their lessons in English and half in Arabic, as part of efforts to help them develop strong language skills.

The school has also built a partnership with Vanderbilt University in the United States to aid faculty training and development.

“We deliver ongoing support and professional development to the faculty and school leadership team,” said Kristin Anderson, the director of educational operations from Vanderbilt.

“This means we can advise the faculty here in Abu Dhabi on training and development.

"The larger vision that Adec has is to build a teaching college that could help support Emirati teaching leaders and build capacity in the country, and this support is the foundation of eventually building that later on."