UAE schools say majority of pupils are returning to the classroom

Most parents want a sense of normality and routine, principals confirm

Schools in the UAE say the majority of pupils will return for in person learning when the new term begins on Sunday.

Principals said most parents wanted to get back to a sense of normality since schools closed in March to limit the spread of Covid-19.

The importance of social interaction in boosting a child's development was seen as a critical factor.

Parents can choose face to face or distance learning for the first term and hundreds of thousands of pupils will make their way back.

More than one million pupils at private and public schools will resume classes in person or online on Sunday.

Simon Crane, Head Master, Brighton College Dubai. Courtesy: Brighton College Dubai

"Parents have thought of the risk of a child not going to school and the social and emotional impact that would have," said Simon Crane, headmaster at Brighton College Dubai, who confirmed that 95 per cent of pupils would be returning for in-person learning.

"I think parents are concerned their children are falling behind. They need human-to-human contact," he said. "Distance learning was done at a good standard but cannot replicate human-to-human connection."

While children will stay in their own classrooms, they will be able to return to science laboratories, art rooms and physical education classes in the next phase which is yet to be confirmed.

At Taaleem's Dubai British schools, only five per cent families have opted for distance learning.

"The vast majority are excited to send their children back to school on Sunday," said Brendon Fulton, principal at Dubai British School Jumeirah Park.

"We are pleased that our parents are confident with the stringent but practical safety plans we have put in place."

Abu Dhabi's private schools will have a staggered return to the classroom, with most pupils aged between four and 11 returning to in-person lessons on August 30. Pupils in all other years will start face-to-face lessons four weeks later.

Iain Colledge, executive principal at Raha International School in Abu Dhabi, said 87 per cent of parents picked an in-school return. At The British School Al Khubairat, 90 per cent of primary pupils will be back in school while 10 per cent will learn online, mainly as they have a vulnerable person in their household.

"We hope that after the four weeks of distance learning model in secondary to have all pupils back in school, except those considered vulnerable or those who have a vulnerable family member," said Mark Leppard, the school's headmaster.

Schools have been making a huge effort to prepare for the new term and rules vary from emirate to emirate. Those over 12 in Abu Dhabi's private schools must get tested before returning, but this is not the case in Dubai. Nonetheless, face masks, sanitiser and physical distancing are crucial to a successful new term.

The trend is the same at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, with 85 per cent picking face-to-face learning.

"The trend is shifting to putting children back in school," said Michael Wilson, Cranleigh's principal

However, some Indian schools reported that many parents had picked online learning. Among them was DPS Dubai. Rashmi Nandkeolyar, the school's principal, said the majority picked online education.

“Indian parents are quite protective and they are happy with the online education offerings," said Ms Nandkeolyar. "The trend is to go towards online learning."

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