Safety first reason of travel ban

Ensuring the safety and security of private school students is behind a regulation that bans children under 12 years from field trips in other emirates, says Abu Dhabi Education Council.

ABU DHABI // Ensuring the safety and security of private school students is behind a regulation that bans children under 12 years from field trips in other emirates, says Abu Dhabi Education Council.

Hamad Al Dhaheri, executive director of Adec’s private schools and quality assurance sector, said it was too risky for schools to take young children on long-distance educational excursions.

“We believe students under the age of 12, they need to be within their region, the emirate,” said Mr Al Dhaheri. “Those students are very young, when you are talking about six years or seven years, it’s quite risky to take them outside the city, so we believe it is better for them to be in the city.”

He said that it was safe for students who are older than 12 years to go abroad “subject going through the right process with Adec”.

Mr Al Dhaheri was responding to claims that private schools in Abu Dhabi were forced to cancel field trips to Dubai last week because of Adec’s recent enforcement of the age restriction, which has been in place since January 2015. The policy was introduced for all private schools after Adec received complaints from parents, Mr Al Dhaheri said.

“We are receiving complaints like schools are charging us a lot for using this to generate money, there have been some violations, we have some risks and safety risks that happened during some of those visits,” said Mr Al Dhaheri.

“The schools used to take students to big malls without proper supervision, so this is just to organise that and make sure that students are safe.”

Public schools are not subject to the age restrictions for field trips, however they can only take their students to approved field trip sites.

One senior administrator with a private schools operator said the age-restriction policy is a reaction to isolated incidents that happened in schools over the past year.

“Rather than addressing it at the specific school level, it as now been applied broad-based to all 190-plus schools in the emirate. A rotten apple spoils the bunch kind of thing,” the senior administrator said.

“It is having an impact because it is preventing from taking advantage of different activities, for instance not all students are sportsmen like, in the sense that they take part in these galas that happen in the emirate.”

He mentioned the ChoirFest choral music event and the Emirates Literature Festival as two events in Dubai that were now off limits to students.

Mr Al Dhaheri said that for children under the age of 12, the emirate offers plenty of learning opportunities.

“We have a lot of potential and opportunities and options within the city,” said Mr Al Dhaheri. “Extra-curricular is a small part of the curriculum, so they can choose from a wide variety of options. But for us, safety and security comes first.”

Mr Al Dhaheri added that the old paperwork field trip approval system was suspended because Adec was moving to an online system.

“When we stopped receiving the applications, it actually was to implement the new system, which should facilitate all applications,” said Mr Al Dhaheri.

The new online system is due to launch on March 15.

rpennington@thenational.ae

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