Covid 19: Abu Dhabi launches “Blue Schools”

The start of Term 2 will see a new ‘tiered’ Covid19 system introduced in Abu Dhabi schools. The “Blue Schools” initiative will get underway from Monday, 3rd January. Designed to drive up vaccination rates in the emirate’s student population, the initiative will offer tiered privileges to schools, dependant on the percentage of vaccinated pupils within each student body.
This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19
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This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19

Despite schools in the emirate moving to online learning for the first two weeks of term, the "Blue Schools" Covid-19 response initiative will officially begin in Abu Dhabi schools from Monday 3rd January.

Designed by the Abu Dhabi schools regulator, ADEK, the Blue Schools system will  incentivise and reward schools based upon student vaccination rates.  Every school in Abu Dhabi has been awarded a colour tier and corresponding privileges. Schools with under 50% of students vaccinated will be termed an orange school, yellow schools will be those with 50-64% of students vaccinated and green schools 65-84%. The top tier will be a blue school, with more than 85% of students vaccinated.

At present, the UAE has approved the Pfizer vaccine for children over the age of 12, and Sinopharm for those aged 3 and over.

Abu Dhabi schools with higher vaccination rates will be able to reduce measures such as social distancing and mask wearing. By way of example, a blue (top tier) school will be able to allow students to remove masks when outdoors and use 100% of space capacity on buses. For an orange school, the lowest tier, masks will be required at all times for all students over Kindergarten age, and only 75% capacity of bus space may be used.


Different tier levels will cause schools to close in differing circumstances. Blue schools will likely see far less class and school closures, as the in the instance of one confirmed Covid-19 case in a class, only immediate contacts will be required to quarantine, thereby reducing the number of class and “bubble” closures, which are then the indicators for a whole school closure.

If circumstances warrant a school closure, the duration of the closure will be dependant on tier status. With 3 “macrobubbles” closed and/or 24 cases in a school, a yellow school will be forced to close for 10 days. In a green school, with the same number of cases and macrobubble closures, the school will be permitted to reopen after only 7 days.

ADEK terms a macrobubble as “…a group of classes and individuals (students and staff) who are physically isolated from other macrobubbles during the school day”. ADEK recommends that all schools have a minimum of 3 macrobubbles.

Currently 10% of Abu Dhabi schools are green, and just 0.9% are Blue. The majority of schools are Orange (69.6%) or Yellow (19.4%).

School life will be far closer to a pre-Covid “normal” in a blue school, with all school events, celebrations and trips permitted. The same will remain suspended in an orange school and be subject to limitations in yellow and green schools.

All Abu Dhabi schools will switch to distance learning for the first two weeks of term 2. Whether school principals will actively encourage their students to take a vaccination remains to be seen.

As at the beginning of January 2022, ADEK reports 37,299 (97%) of the emirate's teaching staff as being vaccinated against Covid19. For students, the figure is 121,394 or 44% of Abu Dhabi school pupils.

Dubai, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah students will return to class at the start of the new term and new working week, Monday 3rd January 2022. Schools will operate face to face, albeit under increased restrictions such as extra-curricular activities and gathering being suspended, and canteens closed.

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