Coronavirus: Abu Dhabi to keep distance learning as an option after calls from parents

Education officials had planned to bring pupils back into the classroom in September

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: Sarwat Nasir: Coronavirus / Covid-19. (R-L) Atika Rehman aged 14, Aliza Rehman aged 8 and Aiza Rehman aged 11. Pupils from low-income families receive free laptops for distance learning. Monday, May 18th, 2020. Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Distance learning will remain an option for pupils in Abu Dhabi, the city's private school regulator said.

In March, the government shut schools and brought all learning online to protect children and stem the spread of the virus.

Abu Dhabi had originally intended to bring all healthy pupils back into the classroom, at least part-time, for the upcoming school year. Children with underlying health conditions were, however, exempt.

Schools had been given the option, subject to approval, to allow children into school full-time; on alternating days, for half days; alternating weeks; or a combination of the above.

Responding to a strong call from parents who prefer continuing distance learning for their children, Adek has approved the option of full-time distance learning

Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek) has now introduced a distance learning as an option for all children.

“Responding to a strong call from parents who prefer continuing distance learning for their children, Adek has approved the option of full-time distance learning for the upcoming term,” the department said in a statement.

“We have also dedicated a hotline which parents can use to report and address any concerns.”

The hotline can be contacted by calling 800 266754262.

Last month, a survey by Adek found just under half of parents in Abu Dhabi wanted to see children go back to full classes in September.

More than 158,000 people in the capital responded to the poll.

Speaking last month, Brendan Aspell, principal of Wales International school in Abu Dhabi, said teachers were already planning classes with a maximum of 15 pupils at any one time.

He suggested most parents wanted to see schools return in some form in after the summer.

“I think we went as far as we could with distance learning. I’m not sure it’s a realistic option to keep it going," he said.

All pupils must undergo a swab test to prove they are free of Covid-19 before they return to classroom under Adek's rules.

Pupils and staff will be routinely screened for infection to ensure their safety, said the regulator, which has introduced a string of measures to keep them safe.

Under the department's guidelines, pupils over the age of 6 must wear masks throughout the school day when they return after the summer.

Pupils' temperatures will also be checked daily with a non-contact thermometer before they enter school.

Pupils aged 6 and above, which equates to grade 1, or year 2, in the British system, must wear masks.

“If your child is unable to wear a mask, they may be allowed to wear a face shield if supported by a medical certificate," the guidelines said.

“Children of determination with hearing impairments may use transparent masks.”

Adek has warned that children who are homeschooled by their parents, without any enrolment in a school, run the risk of having to repeat it once they rejoin mainstream education.