Abu Dhabi parents back resumption of in-person lessons for new school year

Parents say face-to-face interaction with teachers and friends is crucial for children's mental well-being

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Parents in Abu Dhabi are happy that in-person teaching at private schools in the capital will be in place for the start of the new academic year.

Most pupils in the capital went back to the classroom in February after nearly a year of remote learning because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Approval from Abu Dhabi's Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee on Thursday confirmed that face-to-face lessons would continue for the 2021-2022 academic year, which is scheduled to start in late August.

The decision followed consultation with parents, teachers, principals and school operators across Abu Dhabi in May and June this year.

Provisions will remain in place for those who wish to study from home.

Caroline Waddington, 44, said her two children, 10 and 13, who attend the British International School Abu Dhabi, were glad to be back at school for in-person classes.

"It's been wonderful for them to be able to attend school in person for almost the whole of this term and BISAD have done an amazing job keeping all the staff, students and parents safe and well," Ms Waddington said.

“I am very pleased that in-person classes are and will be running because it’s important for the pupils to be with friends and in the school environment for them to receive a rounded education.”

Widespread vaccination proves key

More than 80 per cent of teachers and school staff, including maintenance and security teams, have been vaccinated.

This support for the country's inoculation drive was key to the shift back to in-person learning.

Parents said the current academic year had been disrupted because some schools had to move online for a few days owning to Covid-19 cases, but were glad that children would be able to benefit from on-site education.

“By the end of the second school year of children being mostly on distance learning, there is no doubt that most were falling behind,” said Radwa Allabban, an Egyptian-British mother of three boys, aged between four and 10.

“It’s a difficult choice to make because Covid-19 is likely to be here for much longer, but I am sending my three boys to school next year."

Ms Allabban's oldest son starts secondary school next year and she said the transition would be very difficult to manage if he had stayed on distance learning, despite the school’s efforts.

She said her children were aware of Covid-19 safety rules and were careful.

Majority of parents in favour of back to school plan

Of more than 117,000 parents surveyed across private, public and charter schools, 88 per cent of parents said it would be better for pupils to return to classes in person.

The Parents Survey on Schools Reopening included UAE citizens and residents.

It was conducted by the Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek) to help inform the decision-making process.

Parents said in-person interaction was crucial for children's mental and emotional well-being.

Last year, some pupils who had chronic health issues were barred from attending school for months as a precaution because they were at greater risk of severe symptoms should they catch Covid-19.

In-school teaching is crucial

Karen Leach, from the UK, said she was “very pleased” that children are to return to school from September.

Her daughter has Crohn's disease, a chronic illness that inflames the bowel and causes abdominal pain, fatigue and weight loss.

Her daughter had to study at home for nearly a year during the pandemic before she could resume in-person lessons.

She will be going to sixth form to start her IB diploma in September.

"I am so very, very pleased to have my daughter return to proper schooling. I completed the survey from the Department of Education and Knowledge a couple of weeks ago and stated my preference for them to go back to school," Ms Leach said.

“My daughter is going into Year 12, the first year of her IB diploma, so she needs proper, uninterrupted teaching and learning.

"She's just finished her GCSE course, which has been very disrupted and she may not get the grades I think she would have if she'd been in school properly for the last two years."