Getting a School Place in Abu Dhabi

The responsibility for administration of schools in Abu Dhabi Emirates lies with ADEK – the Abu Dhabi Education and Knowledge Department (formerly ADEC). Below we answer the most common questions faced by parents in registering their children at schools in Abu Dhabi.
Getting a School Place in Abu Dhabi
By Lyn Soppelsa
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The responsibility for administration of schools in Abu Dhabi Emirates lies with ADEK – the Abu Dhabi Education and Knowledge Department (formerly ADEC). Below we answer the most common questions faced by parents in registering their children at schools in Abu Dhabi. For information about transferring children to school in Abu Dhabi, please read our Guide – Transferring to a School in Abu Dhabi


How old does my child need to be to attend school?

ADEK’s policy is that children attending all international curricula with the exception of the UK curriculum must be aged 4 on 31st December if they are to join a school with a September to June academic year, or aged 4 on 31st July for Indian, Pakistani and Japanese schools commencing their academic year in April.

ADEK is responsible for Private Education regulation from KG1 to Grade 12. In the UK curriculum, this translates to FS2 to Year 13 (see our Age/Grade table at Getting a School Place in the UAE). Families wishing to place their child in FS1 (pre-KG equivalent) in a UK curriculum school in Abu Dhabi can do so provided, the child is 3 years old on 31st August.
Children are legally required to be in school in the year in which they turn 6 years of age – this is Year 2/Grade 1.


Is there anything I can do if I feel that my child is too young or has social or other issues that mean s/he should not join the age-appropriate year group/grade?

In general, ADEK applies the age/grade criteria to the placement of children in school, although exceptions can be made. ADEK seeks to ensure continuity of education for children in an age-appropriate social group. Where exceptions are made, a difference of a maximum of 2 years in age is permitted.

Parents can request that their child is placed in a lower year group/grade (generally from Year 2/grade 1 upwards) if there are reasons why they feel this would be more appropriate. This Demotion process must be supported by both the parents and the Principal of the school and usually requires supporting documents to prove the need for demotion.

This is a difficult process and most schools do not encourage such an application, unless there are Special Educational Needs. Once a child is demoted, there is no possibility to reverse this decision irrespective of the child’s future academic performance. Schools therefore encourage families to place their child in the age-appropriate year group/grade with additional support if required.

Age criteria are usually strictly applied to children in FS2/KG1 and Year 1/KG2 and no possibility for Demotion is provided.

From Year 6/Grade 5 upwards, a clear academic demotion process exists based on the performance of the student in the Arabic, UAE Social Studies and Islamic/ Moral Education, whereby students may not be promoted to the next academic year. However, all failures can be retested and the child subsequently promoted.


How do I register my child at a private school?

Private schools manage their enrolment and registration themselves, but are required to adhere to a set of requirements laid out in a policy document issued by the regulator. ADEK uses an on-line registration system (e-SIS) which is updated by the schools’ Admissions teams.

Some private schools will require your child to participate in an assessment to determine your child’s current level of academic or personal development. This may take the form of an individual interview or group assessment – you can find out from the school Admissions team whether your child will be asked to take part in such an assessment and what form it will take.

Many schools accept registration on-line via their websites, but some may ask you to visit the school to complete the application process. You will also need to submit supporting documents.

The types of documents you may be asked to submit include:

1. Birth Certificate (Attested where required – link to Getting a school place in the UAE)
2. Emirates ID (or copy of Emirates ID Application if in progress)
3. Passport and Residency visa copies (both parents' and student's)
4. Recent passport size photograph of the student (Coloured with white background)
5.Vaccination Cards for FS2/KG- Year3/Grade 2 students.

Please note that all documents must be submitted in either English or Arabic and legally translated and attested copies will be required where these are not the original languages of issue.

Children are not legally permitted to start school until all of the required documents are available to enable their registration in ADEK’s system. Some schools may offer flexibility in this regard, but you should aim to ensure that you have all the documents needed if possible.


Is there a fee to register students on a school's waiting list? Is this fee refundable?

Schools cannot charge for putting children on a waiting list unless they can guarantee them a place. In the event that they take a registration fee and a place is not available, the school must refund the fee. If the school provides a place and parents who have paid registration fees choose not to take the place, the school has the right to retain the registration fee, which should not exceed 5% of the school tuition fee.


When does the registration for private schools open? When is the deadline?

Most schools have specific periods during the academic year when they open registration for the year groups or grades in high demand. This applies particularly to families seeking places in FS1, FS2 and KG1 and KG2 and for students seeking places in Secondary or Middle School (year 7/grade 6).

Most schools offering a September start will take applications for these year groups/grades from October through to December, although parents may apply to school for admission at any point during the academic year. Many schools have a policy giving priority to siblings and will often open applications to these children in advance of the general admission period.

Schools following the April to March academic calendar tend to open registrations for KG1 and KG2 in late October/early November and, due to the particularly high level of demand, often accept applications for only a very limited window of time. Parents should therefore ensure that they submit their application on-time.

For students already in school in the UAE, they must be registered at the start of the academic year and all necessary documents provided to enable the Admissions team to register them with ADEK by the end of October (for UK and International curriculum schools), and by end of May for Indian, Pakistani and Japanese schools.


Should I apply to more than one school?

This will depend on the curriculum you are choosing and whether you wish to apply to specific schools with high demand. In general, schools tend to experience the highest demand for FS and KG classes across all curricula. The exception to this will be newer schools who have not yet developed the reputation of the more established ones.

This should not be a concern to parents, since all schools follow strict policies and controls by ADEK and new schools are subject to an inspection process during the first year of operation.

We would generally advise parents to apply to several schools, to ensure that a place is available. However, please note that some school groups (notably Aldar Academies) do not permit multiple applications.

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