Your School: In-School or Blended? Updated

This week, schools across Dubai and Abu Dhabi have begun to receive regulator approvals for reopening in September. How schools will reopen isn’t completely uniform, so we have put together this list of schools that will deliver education predominantly in-school and those with a more blended option (online and in-school). This article will continue to be updated so please do check back for news of your school as we get it.
This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19
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Schools in the UAE are gearing up to reopen in September, but from our conversations with parents and schools alike, it’s clear that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ operating model that will work in every UAE school.  Each institution is unique, with differing campus sizes, facilities and student and staff populations – meaning that the way each school will now work will vary significantly from school to school.

Last month, the KHDA issued 118 guidelines for schools in Dubai to reopen. Similar guidelines were issued in Abu Dhabi by ADEK. School leaders were then tasked with submitting a plan for interpreting these guidelines to the authorities for approval. Those approvals have now been received (for many, if not all schools) and parents are beginning to understand what their child’s school day might look like.

One piece of clarity is that all schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi will need to continue to offer distance learning to parents who want this option for their child. That's great news for the one-third of parents that told WhichSchoolAdvisor.com that they would prefer their child to continue online learning for the foreseeable future.



Some schools are better equipped in terms of space than others to meet the requirements for social distancing being enforced by regulators. To manage that those schools with less space will offer a blend of learning (in-school and online at home) come September, as opposed to "all students being in school, all of the day".

Blended learning will not necessarily be split 50:50, with the ratio dependent upon capacity. Some schools are being asked to split the in-school:at home ratio by 80:20 for example. How schools choose to meet these capacity and social distancing requirements is being decided at a school level. 

Those parents with more than one child in school have been the most vocal on social media in expressing their dissatisfaction largely with blended offerings. This is especially the case when there are different pick up and drop off times, means mums and dads will need to spend a considerable amount of time in their cars.

Note: According to some schools, there is an as yet unconfirmed regulatory requirement that ALL schools must devote 20% of their time to online, distance education.

However the only public statement, actually made to principals, that has been made by the KHDA that applies to all schools equally, is this one. Please note, no mention of any required percentages.

"While face-to-face learning remains the preferred education model, we understand that different parents have different views, especially in the first phases of re-opening. As a temporary measure, schools can and should provide 100% distance learning provision in the new academic year to parents who request it. This is intended to help ease parents and children into an eventual return to face-to-face learning.

Schools Reopening - what we know so far

A handful of schools have now shared their detailed plans to reopen.  At Kent College Dubai, parents have been able to select their preference from five days per week in school, a 2/3 day a week model or to continue with full time distance learning. Principal Anthony Cashin highlighted some of the key practices designed to keep children of all ages safe,

"Our youngest children in the Foundation Stage (FS) will be scanned by thermal devices as they enter, after the children from the Junior School have entered. This will allow their parents to bring the younger ones to the school entrance and say goodbye. All Junior School and older students will also be scanned on arrival, but will be required to wear a face mask, wash their hands regularly and to use hand sanitiser frequently throughout the school day.  Teachers will continue to maintain a 1.5m to 2m social distancing at all times. In our Senior School, year group hubs and one-way travelling systems will be put in place in order to limit contact between year groups and teachers will rotate to classes wherever possible. Finally, the end of the school day will be staggered to reduce any gatherings of pupils and parents.”

At Brighton College Al Ain, most students will physically attend school on an alternate weeks model.  A spokesperson for the school told us;

"Brighton College Al Ain will open on the 30th August, as planned, on an Alternate Weeks model where 50% of each year group will be on site while the other 50% participate via comprehensive online provision. The only exception to this is Year 11 and 13 who will be in 100% of the time in preparation for their exams at the end of the academic year".

Clearly, density of the school population is a key indicator of how back to school will look come September.  By contrast to the Al Ain branch, sister school Brighton College Dubai will open full time, with a distance learning option for those who require it. In addition to measures such as staggered start times, children will have their own allocated equipment and desks.  Dwight School Dubai, and all Brighton College branches will offer part time, online options to "...those students who have been certified as vulnerable and cannot return to the classroom at this time".

In addition to many of the protocols mentioned above, the nursing staff at Fairgreen International School have created a "separate triage area from the nurse's office for any students or staff that present with symptoms on campus".

GEMS Wellington Academy DSO has a different approach depending upon the phase of the students. In a letter to parents, Mr Kevin Loft, CEO & Principal, said the uniting theme was the "health of your children across all age-groups... We will not compromise on the Health and Safety regulations in any way," as well as the  well-being of children. "We want them to be happy to be back at school, excited to see their friends and at all times feel safe and reassured that WSO is doing everything they can to keep them safe."

Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 students at GEMS Wellington DSO have the option to be in school every day (FS1-Year 2), following the same timings as previous years with slightly staggered start times. Key Stage 2 students will have a 50/50 blended learning model, with half of their time at the Academy being taught face to face, and the other half being taught from home via our successful remote learning procedures. Over a two-week period, KS2 students will have 5 days in school and 5 days learning remotely. For secondary students, "the learning programme will look different depending on the year level of your children".  Years 7, 11 and 13 will be onsite 80% of a normal programme and 20% remote learning from home. Students will be rostered home and families informed accordingly. Years 8, 9, 10 and 12 will be onsite 50% of a normal programme with 50% remote learning from home.

Over a two-week period, these students will have 5 days in school and 5 days learning remotely.

The Next Generation School will operate full school timings for all students K-8 Sunday to Wednesday with Thursday being a distance learning day for all students. However, "due to the concerns of many parents we will also offer online distance learning for any families who do not wish to send their children back to school yet", the school told WhichSchoolAdvisor.com in an email. At Arcadia School, where both the Primary and High schools will return to full time, five day per week operations, the leadership have specifically hired a new, full-time Health & Safety Officer to lead on all Covid-19 related operational planning.

GEMS Royal Dubai (GRDS) has adopted a Blended Learning scenario.

"We are in a very fortunate position whereby we have been able to fully utilise our outstanding facilities and additional learning spaces to facilitate a full return for all students in FS1 to Year 5".

GRDS Year 6 students will follow an A/B Model with half of the students (stable groups of a maximum 15) in school on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and the remaining half in school on Wednesday and Thursday. This will rotate each week providing alternating 2 and 3 days of face to face learning.

Students in Years 1 to 5 will remain in stable groups of a maximum of 10 in Foundation Stage and Year One, and in stable groups of a maximum of 15 in Years 2 to Year 5, adhering to social distancing guidance.

"Each class teacher will continue to oversee the learning of their class with additional staffing of teaching assistants and specialists teachers facilitating learning on a rotational basis in a manner and time that best fits the learning, whilst utilizing technology such as MS teams for live lesson streaming and Seesaw for asynchronous content."

Bill Debrugge, Principal of Dunecrest American School has announced that the school will reopen full time.  In doing so he highlighted the need for attention to well-being for all school community members;

"It is our goal that every student, staff member and family member feels both emotional and physical safety at Dunecrest American School. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this means members of our community can reasonably expect a heightened level of concern for their health and well-being. We must also appreciate that people’s risk tolerance might be lower than our own. To do our part to defeat this unprecedented public health challenge, mutual respect, trust, and a deep sense of our obligations to one another will be essential". 

The table below summarises the reopening information we have been able to obtain at this point. We will continue to update as schools make announcements and confirm their operating model. Unsurprisingly perhaps, schools have been considerably happier to report to us that they are open all day to all students.

Whatever model your school opts for, the devil as always is in the detail, so please make sure you are following school communications, and if in any doubt, ask.

In-School Blended
The Arbor School Brighton College Al Ain
Arcadia School Dubai College 
Brighton College Dubai Dubai International Academy, Emirates Hills
Capital School GEMS Westminster Ras Al Khaimah
Clarion School GEMS Founders (part time in school for most years, full time in school for FS, Year 1 and Year 10)
GEMS Wellington Primary School GEMS Wellington DSO (full time in school for FS and Key Stage 1. Blended for KS2 and Secondary).
Dove Green Next Generation School (Full time in-school Sunday to Wednesday, Thursday home schooling)
Dubai British Schools (All) GEMS Royal School Dubai (FS1 to Yr 5 are in school, all day, all days. Year 6 are in on a rational basis. Details above).
Dubai Heights Academy  
Dunecrest American School  
Dwight School Dubai  
Fairgreen School  
Foremarke School  
GEMS FirstPoint   
Ghaf Primary   
Greenfield International School   
Hartland International School  
Horizon English School  
Horizon International School  
Jumeirah English Speaking School  
Jumeirah Baccalaureate School  
Kent College Dubai  
North London Collegiate School   
Oaktree School  
Ranches Primary  
Regent International School  
Repton School Dubai  
Smart Vision School  
South View School  
Sunmarke School  
Swiss International Scientific School Dubai  
Victory Heights Primary School   

We would love to hear if your school has announced their operating model for September.  Are you happy with how things will work and do you think your child will be safe in school?  Let us know by emailing editor@whichschooladvisor.com or by joining the conversation on our facebook page.

If you have strong views on how your school is performing in general, we want to hear them. Our surveys guide our reviews, and help future parents make their school choices. You can take the parent survey here, the teacher survey here, and the student survey here. You can also take the 2020 Happiness Survey here.

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