Getting a School Place in Dubai

The most commonly asked questions is asked by parents looking to register their child for a school place within Dubai...
Getting a School Place in Dubai
By Lyn Soppelsa
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The responsibility for administration of schools in the Emirate of Dubai lies with the KHDA – the Knowledge and Human Development Authority.

Below we answer the most common questions faced by parents in registering their children at schools in the emirate of Dubai.

For information about transferring children to school in Dubai, please read our Guide – Transferring to a School in Dubai.


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

The KHDA’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.

The KHDA is responsible for Private Education regulation from Pre-KG to Grade 12 (where the Pre-KG programme is offered in a school or Early Learning Centre). In the UK curriculum, this translates to FS1 to Year 13 (see our Age/Grade table at Getting a School Place in the UAE).

The KHDA has recently amended the cut-off date for children entering FS1 from 3 years old to 2 years and 8 months on 31st August (in line with the December 31st cut-off date for all other year groups/grades for schools following a September to June curriculum). This advancement in entry age has caused some controversy, since it is not in keeping with the age cut-off applied in the UK. Please see the following article for further details - KHDA Explains New School Starting Ages

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, KHDA applies the age/grade criteria to the placement of children in school, although exceptions can be made. KHDA 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.

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 KG1 and KG2 in most international curricula. The exception to this rule is for children attending UK curriculum schools who are age-appropriate for FS2 (that is 4 by 31st December/3 years 8 months on 31st August). For children born between 1st September and 31st December, who would previously have not been able to join FS2 as they were younger than 4 on 31st August, parents may apply for demotion to FS1. Many traditional UK curriculum schools seem to be retaining a minimum age requirement of 3 years by 31st August.


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. KHDA uses an on-line registration system 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
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 KHDA’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?

The majority of schools in Dubai require payment of a registration fee in order to start the registration process – typically this is AED 500. Some schools will also charge an Assessment fee. Over-subscribed schools will usually place children on a waiting list which does not guarantee a place.

If the school offers 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. Parents will also be required to be pay a deposit to guarantee the place which is deducted from the first term’s fees. This may also not be refunded in the event that the child does not take up the place.

A small number of schools require payment of a Facilities Fee or Debenture. These are usually not-for-profit schools and the amounts involved can be substantial. Whilst the Facilities Fee is not usually refundable, the Debenture is effectively an interest-free loan which is returned to the parents when the child leaves the school.


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 KHDA 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 and for Year 7 in the UK curriculum for entry to the small number of Secondary-only Schools.

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 KHDA and new schools are subject to an informal inspection visits during the first year of operation prior to the first formal inspection in their third year of operation.

Read our guide on how to get a school place in a top Dubai school.

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