Almost half of parents in Abu Dhabi support return to the classroom

Education authorities received more than 158,000 responses to a survey gauging views on back-to-school plans

epa08515448 Students wearing protective face masks during a class at a reopened school amid an easing of coronavirus restrictions in Dili, Timor Leste, also known as East Timor, 29 June 2020. The government reopened some qualified schools with cover-19 protocol.  EPA/ANTONIO DASIPARU
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Almost half of parents in Abu Dhabi support plans to reopen schools in September, according to a survey carried out by the emirate's private education regulator.

More than 158,000 people responded to the wide-ranging poll from the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek) on its back-to-school strategy.

The anonymous survey found 45 per cent of those parents backed a full return to the classroom, while 34 per cent preferred to continue distance learning.

The remaining 21 per cent were uncertain of which education method they favoured at this stage.

We fully understand that parents still harbour some concerns about a safe return to school

Schools closed their doors in March as authorities sought to stem the spread of Covid-19, with remote learning put in place in order to complete the academic year.

On Wednesday, Adek confirmed pupils and teachers must take Covid-19 tests prior to their return to school, while pupils over the age of 6 must wear masks throughout the school day.

“We are committed to ensuring the safest possible return to in-classroom education for students and teachers and the guidelines, aligned with global best practice, take into account every aspect of school operations,” said Amer Al Hammadi, an undersecretary at Adek.

“Following an in-depth analysis of responses, we are now better positioned to help schools ensure their planning process for reopening is well-informed and supported by data and insights from their own parent community.

“We fully understand that parents still harbour some concerns about a safe return to school and we want to reiterate that distance learning provisions remain in place for all schools, irrespective of the reopening model they choose.

“As we continue to assess different scenarios and models for the new academic year, we remain in constant dialogue with federal and local authorities to ensure the health and wellbeing of all pupils, faculty, and staff.”

The questionnaire also gauged views on what modes of transport children will use to get to school and distance learning for pupils with special needs.

Forty per cent of respondents said they would use school buses in the new academic year, down from 46 per cent who took advantage of the service in the last school year.

The vast majority of parents (85 per cent) said they did not intend to move their children to a new school.

Schools in Abu Dhabi have been permitted to resume in-person classes from the beginning of the next academic year.

Adek has said its policies for reopening have focused on safety of operations, teaching and learning, staff and pupil well-being, and community support.

Schools have been encouraged to assist pupils in need through fee discounts, payment deferrals, and splitting term fees into monthly instalments.

Adek has requested schools to announce their reopening models by July 30.

Schools have been given the choice to allow children into school full time, in other words, daily; or on alternating days, for half days; alternating weeks; or a combination.