Abu Dhabi schools have received the green light to resume in-classroom learning for the start of the Academic Year 2020/21 in line with comprehensive reopening policies and guidelines from Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) to ensure the safest possible return for the Emirate’s students and teachers.
ADEK has worked extensively over the last few months with schools, parent representatives, teachers and the relevant authorities to make these policies as comprehensive as possible. The policies are framed around four main dimensions: safe operations, teaching and learning, staff and student wellbeing, and community support. The safe operations pillar lays out procedures aimed at ensuring safety in every aspect of a school’s operations, while the teaching and learning pillar instructs schools on how to adopt social distancing processes and other safety measures without jeopardizing the overarching academic mission.
Three basic preventive measures are outlined, including social distancing, where schools are requested to organize time and space to minimize interactions between people; protective equipment, where schools are requested to install appropriate equipment, screens, partitions and other protective measures; and maintaining the highest hygiene standards, with schools requested to regularly disinfect and clean all areas.
Central to ADEK priorities, the staff and student wellbeing pillar outlines procedures aimed at ensuring schools are fully prepared to assist with student and teacher health and wellbeing, while the community support pillar encourages schools to provide assistance to students in need, such as fee discounts, payment deferrals, and splitting term fees into monthly instalments, among others.
“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 HE Amer Al Hammadi, ADEK Undersecretary. “The guidelines also put in place mechanisms to support the wellbeing of everyone in the Abu Dhabi education community.”
ADEK received responses from 63% of Abu Dhabi Private School parents on the survey that was launched covering a range of topics from opinions and considerations on schools reopening, to preferences on duration and format of school days and transportation for the upcoming term.
Almost half (45%) of parents are willing to send their child to school, with 21% undecided on their preferred school reopening model for the coming Academic Year 2020/21. A third of respondents (34%) are willing to continue distance learning, insisting it enables them to manage their time more efficiently.
There was a slightly higher percentage of Emirati parents (39%) preferring the distance learning option compared to Expatriate parents (33%) which could be due to the fact that Emirati families have more household childcare assistance (74% versus 26% expats) and are more likely to be living with one or more vulnerable people (66% Emirati compared to 31% Expatriate families).
Of the 45% of parents who support a return to in-classroom operations, 34% prefer a full-day return, 16% prefer a half-day model, citing a balance between safety and learning.
The survey findings will be used in conjunction with the comprehensive guidelines to help 201 education entities under the ADEK umbrella shape their individual plans for the new academic year.
“We would like to thank parents for responding to the survey. They are invaluable partners in the success of our students and the education journey as a whole. Everybody has worked so hard during our recent enforced period of distance learning and parents deserve tremendous credit”, added HE Al Hammadi.
“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 students, faculty, and staff.”
The survey also indicated that the number of children expected to travel to school by bus for the new term will only decrease marginally, with 40% of parents saying they plan to avail of the services, down from 46% in the 2019/20 academic year.
The survey also indicated that at least 85% of both expat and Emirati families do not intend to move their children to a new school.
Following the release of the policies and guidelines, as well as the aggregated parents’ survey results, ADEK has requested schools to announce their reopening models by 30 July 2020 to enable parents to take an informed decision about where they wish to enrol their children for the new academic year.
ADEK has also issued a Parents’ Guide, which provides a full understanding of the reopening guidelines allowing parents to be more informed about the health, safety and wellbeing of their children and the important part they play in the process.
“As key stakeholders to our operations, we are committed to supporting parents in making informed decisions that are based on facts and a deep understanding of the procedures that are in place to ensure uninterrupted learning for the coming academic year,” added HE Al Hammadi.