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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 5 March 2021

Coronavirus: Dubai school census to assess impact of Covid-19 on wellbeing of pupils and staff

More than 100,000 pupils and 20,000 teachers will be polled by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority

Tens of thousands of pupils and teachers in Dubai will voice their views on the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on their mental wellbeing in an emirate-wide school census.

The Knowledge and Human Development Authority, Dubai's private schools regulator, said it was crucial to assess how staff and learners have coped with the challenges of the pandemic.

More than 100,000 pupils from grades six to 12 (aged 11 to 17) and 20,000 teachers are expected to take part in KHDA's fourth annual Dubai Student Wellbeing Census and the Adults At School Wellbeing Survey.

Schools closed their doors in March to curb the spread of coronavirus, with lessons moving online to ensure the academic year could be completed.

Wellbeing has always been important, but in these past few months, we’ve realised just how important it really is

Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director general of KHDA

Dubai schools reopened their doors after a near six-month break at the end of August, although some pupils have chosen to continue with distance learning.

The school environment they returned to has altered radically, however, with strict regulations in place such as regular temperature checks and the need to wear face masks.

“Wellbeing has always been important, but in these past few months, we’ve realised just how important it really is," said Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director general of KHDA.

“This year’s census and survey are especially important, because they’ll give students and school staff the time and space to think deeply about their own wellbeing, and they’ll provide every school with the data it needs to continue to improve the wellbeing of its community.

"We hope that schools will encourage their staff to take part in the survey, and that parents will encourage their children to talk about the Census and wellbeing in general.”

The significant disruption to the school year not only forced schools to quickly adapt to remote learning but separated learners from friends for a period of months.

Speaking at a virtual wellbeing conference last week, Dr Karam highlighted just how a great a loss regular social interaction with peers was for pupils during the school shutdown.

“The school is a place where children make friends and they feel a sense of belonging. It’s a place where teachers connect with children and their colleagues and where parents meet each other. Schools are at the heart of the community,” said Dr Karam.

He said education authorities were inundated with calls from pupils eager to get back to the classroom.

Ahead of the widespread return to classrooms, teachers echoed the sentiment that in-person learning was vital to a child's all-round development.

"Parents have thought of the risk of a child not going to school and the social and emotional impact that would have," Simon Crane, headmaster at Brighton College Dubai, told The National in August.

"I think parents are concerned their children are falling behind. They need human-to-human contact.

"Distance learning was done at a good standard but cannot replicate human-to-human connection."

In the census, pupils and teachers will also be be asked questions on their relationships at school and at home, their engagement with teaching and learning, and their feeling about the future.

Pupils will be asked about their quality of life, happiness, relationships with friends and teachers, health and lifestyle.

Every teacher who completes the survey will receive their own confidential in-depth report.

The census and the survey are open to pupils and staff, including pupils studying through distance, blended and face-to-face learning.

This year’s census and survey will run from November 1 to November 30.

Updated: November 2, 2020 01:38 PM

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