GEMS to Means Test Parents for Covid-19 Relief

Rather than providing a blanket discount, schools owned and managed by GEMS Education will means test parents, to target the most in need, allowing its schools to target those really in need, while maintaining "service levels parents expect".
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This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19

Rather than providing a blanket discount, GEMS Education will means test parents, to target the most in need. 

In a standard, GEMS templated letter, seen by, the principal of GEMS United School, Katharine Vavpetic, told parents the school was committed to offering tuition fee relief "to those families that have been adversely impacted by COVID-19, defined as "families who have lost their jobs, had salary cuts or been placed on unpaid leave and are struggling to pay fees at this point in time as a direct result of the COVID-19 outbreak."

To these families GEMS Education will offer "the deferment of fees, payment plans or discounts" and a"waiver of all registration fees, assessments and administration fees until further notice".

The letter said it would be sending details of the "Relief Package application process" shortly. In a statement sent later to the media, GEMS Education said this process had now "started to be shared".

In the statement GEMS Education said this means-tested approach would allow it to allocate its relief efforts "to those most in need, while retaining all of our teachers and managing our cost base which, despite intense media speculation, has not decreased."

The letter noted:

- Almost 100% of our costs are fixed or contractual. We are yet to receive any payment relief from our landlords or service providers.
- We must retain our teachers and staff who are working tirelessly to ensure seamless learning for all our students, not just for this semester, but for many more years to come.
- Over the last seven years all schools have sustained significant cost escalations far in excess of regulated fee increases.
- We continue to answer the call of the leaders of the nation to ensure that education must continue under any circumstances.

"This is not a conversation about profits or surplus," Ms Vavpetic said, "but about the continuity and sustainability of our schools and our communities for decades to come...

"We ask that parents who are not eligible for the Relief Package to please ensure their school fee records are up to date, so we can continue to pay our academic staff and provide our students with the same consistency and quality of education that you expect from us."

The GEMS Education approach differs from the solution of most other school in the UAE which are offering blanket discounts for all students. Schools that have announced they are doing so include Horizon International and English (20%), Safa Community and Safa British (20%), Next Generation School (20%) Dubai English Speaking School (20%), Dubai English Speaking College (20%), Jumeirah English Speaking School (10%), and Ambassador Education (which is waiving transportation and lunch fees for the third term). Innoventures Education however, which manages Dubai International AcademyCollegiate American SchoolRaffles International School and Raffles World Academy, is also going the means testing route, offering "personalised payment plans and deferment of fees" to "families who have lost jobs, had salary cuts, been placed on unpaid leave". 

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