Abu Dhabi parents relieved to have children back in classrooms after 11 months of online learning

Parents say some children may need extra academic or social support after months of separation

Almost a month since resuming in-person classes, parents of pupils at Abu Dhabi private schools spoke of their relief at having children back in classrooms.

Parents said their children were excited to be reunited with their teachers and classmates, but also called on schools to assess pupils and offer additional support to those who needed it.

Families revealed that pupils were adjusting well to new procedures, but some parents said their children could use a little help in some subjects to close any learning gaps.

Pupils in years seven to nine in Abu Dhabi returned to classrooms in February after 11 months of distance learning.

Caroline Waddington, 44, said her two children, 10 and 13, who attend the British International School Abu Dhabi, were happy and coped well with the return to classrooms after almost a year of home learning.

“When pupils were going back to school, there was a lot of excitement at our house," she said.

“It was a really big step in the right direction.

“The children were really excited and looking forward to seeing their friends.

“My son interacted with his teacher online but was keen to meet him face to face.”

She said her children were regularly assessed by their teachers and parents were updated on the progress.

“Schools need to identify the pupils who need extra support with academics and find ways of helping them with online tutoring, extra lessons or additional support at home,” Ms Waddington said.

She said her son and daughter benefited from well-being days at the school and regular checks from counsellors.

During well-being days, children were involved in fun activities such as colouring, craftwork and cooking.

Some schools in the emirate offered extra support to pupils who lagged in their studies.

Teachers at Gems United Indian School in Abu Dhabi volunteered to organise extra classes after school or at the weekend.

Amani Nalouti, a Tunisian mother of three boys – who are 5, 8 and 11 – said her children were happy, excited, and nervous on their first day back.

“I am relieved and happy that my children are back at school and are interacting with people,” Ms Nalouti said.

“Going to school doesn’t just help develop their intelligence quotient, but also their emotional quotient.

“Things are slowly getting back to normal so I am happy that they are at school.”

Ms Nalouti said helping her sons study while running the house took a toll on her.

“To carry the burden of their academics while being their mother was getting too much,” she said.

“There was a lot of stress on me because I had to wear so many hats at the same time. I had to cook, clean, and manage the home while helping my children with their studies.”

Ms Nalouti said it was important for schools to ensure pupils were all at the same, standardised level again after months of separation.

Her 11-year-old son returned to his classroom at Al Yasmina Academy last month for the first time in more than 350 days.

Despite taking an online teaching course, Ms Nalouti still struggled to keep up with her children’s distance learning.

“I did not feel my child benefited from in-depth learning during virtual lessons," she said.

The school dedicated the first few days back to determine any learning gaps.

“They need to check if children’s fundamental abilities are at the same level," she said.

“Some pupils have had help at home while others have not. Some had online assistance from private tutors, so not all children would be at the same level.”

Ms Nalouti said the well-being of pupils should also be taken into consideration. One of her sons struggled with social skills after being home for so long.

“The inability to communicate with peers was stressful," she said.

“My son was anxious about going back to school, and about whether his friends would remember him.

“He reached a point where he did not know what to say when he met someone because he had been secluded.”

Ms Nalouti said the school helped by setting weekly sessions with the counsellor where the class sat together and talked about their feelings and emotions. This helped children realise that they were not alone.

Abu Dhabi schools reopening in February – in pictures