Abu Dhabi British school's 'illegal' charges spark parent rage

Adec has ordered the British International School in Abu Dhabl to refund money to parents following its unauthorised fee hike and additional charges.

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ABU DHABI // A school has asked parents to pay thousands of dirhams in extra charges after it was ordered to refund an unauthorised increase in its tuition fees.

The British International School in Abu Dhabi said a 5 per cent fee increase last year was communicated to the regulator, Abu Dhabi Education Council. Adec said the increase was not authorised, and ordered a refund to parents.

The school then announced it would then impose a new maintenance charge of Dh2,000 for each pupil and a non-refundable entry fee of Dh2,500 for year 1 and Dh9,000 for other grades.

Adec said those new charges were illegal. "We have communicated with the school principal and asked her to stop the collections as further action will be taken against the school," the regulator said yesterday.

Last night in a new memo from the school principal Lesley Ann-Wallace said parents would now only be invoiced for Adec tuition charges.

She wrote: "As such, your customer account will be readjusted from the invoice sent to you recently. This re-credit will ensure that the fees you pay are compliant with Adec's regulations and we will continue to work with Adec to strategise for the future to ensure fee structures supposted continued investment."

The school said the additional charges were intended to fund an expansion and new sports facilities.

Before the climbdown parents had voiced their displeasure at the fee hike.

Leena Abdullah, a Jordanian mother, said: "It is not our duty nor our concern if they are doing maintenance, buying extra toys, repainting or opening new classes. This has nothing to do with our son."

Ms Abdullah has already started looking for other schools in Abu Dhabi for her seven-year-old.

"But sadly, there is a rule that you cannot transfer from the British curriculum to American unless they put him one year back."

Because of that, she might wait until next year to move the boy.

"I'm waiting for another British school to open, then I'll transfer him," she said. "There's no sense in keeping him there because, on top of the high prices, I've noticed poor performance from my son academically since last year."

The parent of an 11-year-old boy said: "It's a lot of money for a school that was given only a satisfactory grade by Adec so there are problems, but where is the money going?

"If we could move schools, we would, but there are no places so we'll give it one more year and, if his grades go down, we'll change him."

Amal Almaamari, an Emirati mother of three, lodged a formal complaint with Adec when she was asked to pay an extra Dh8,500.

"I don't intend to pay unless they have approval from Adec," she said.

Others have also considered pulling their children out since the fees were introduced.

"I've been thinking twice about keeping my children there," said a mother of two. "These are a lot of payments and they keep asking me for money. I won't pay it though. You have other schools where you pay one amount with everything, including maintenance."

Prinicpal Wallace said the school would "fully comply with Adec's regulations and approved fees".

"Our new fee structure intended to support our further investment into the school in order to build a premium sporting facility, including a 25-metre indoor swimming pool and indoor gymnasium.

"Our intention was to add another 500 school spaces to meet the demand for school places in the city. The school has always worked in partnership with Adec to understand the process for fee increases and charges."