Nurseries to Flourish Under New KHDA guidelines

Dubai’s KHDA has published a new guide for Early Childhood Centres (ECCs) and nurseries. The guide includes detailed information on current requirements, and guidance on new nursery set up and existing nursery expansion.
Nurseries to Flourish Under New KHDA guidelines
By Susan Roberts
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Dubai’s education regulator, the KHDA has published a new guide for Early Childhood Centres (ECCs) and nurseries, that includes detailed information on the latest requirements for existing operators, as well as new entrants into Dubai’s thriving early childhood sector.

Permission to Accept Older Children

As well as including information on the requirements for opening a new centre, the guide details how an existing centre can expand to include additional age groups: FS2/KG1 and Year 1/KG2. With a minority of early childhood centres currently offering provision for these age groups, this will likely encourage many more centres to apply for permission to offer this option to Dubai families. Good news if you think your little one loves their nursery and is not ready for big school.

Child Age Requirements

Age requirements, in line with school age cut offs as per a revision in 2021, are clearly set out for early childhood centres also. The ages mentioned in the table are the age of the child as of August 31. There should be no exceptions according to the KHDA.

Grade/Stage Minimum Age Maximum Age
Early Learning Stage 45 days 1 year
Early Learning Stage 1 year 2 years
Early Learning Stage 2 years 3 years
Pre-KG/FS 1 3 years 4 years
KG1/FS2 4 years 6 years

Staff-Child Ratios

For parents keen to keep staff to child ratios down, these are now the requirements for nurseries to follow.

Age Group Staff to Child Ratios
45 days to 17 months 1:3
18 months to 35 months 1:5
36 to 47 months 1:8
48 to 71 months 1:12

Staff Requirements



Applicable to staff in existing early childhood centres also, the guide outlines the qualification and experience requirements for Early Childhood Centre Managers, Teachers, Teaching Assistants and Care Assistants.

Nursery Managers must meet the below requirements as well as receiving written approval from the KHDA, confirming their suitability for the role.

Job Role Qualifications Required Experience Required
Centre Manager Bachelor’s degree, and preferably working towards a post-graduate qualification in early childhood education OR professional certification in leading an early learning centre (for example: level five vocational qualification). 3+ years’ experience in an early childhood setting
Teacher Should have or be working towards a Bachelor’s degree in early childhood education (preferable) or another area OR professional certification in early childhood education (e.g. L3 vocational qualification).  Recommended relevant experience in an early childhood setting
Teaching Assistant Should hold a university degree OR a minimum of a high school certificate (or equivalent) with experience Work experience in ECEC

While there are not specific requirements set out for Care Assistants or “Helpers”, the guide does state that “Helpers should never be in charge of a group of children, unless supervised by a teacher or teaching assistant”.

The publication of the guide follows the transition of governance and licensing for nurseries and early childhood centres from the Ministry of Education to the KHDA.

Mohammed Darwish, CEO of Permits and Compliance at KHDA said of the guide:

We have high expectations of Dubai’s early years education sector, and this guide gives operators the information they need to offer high-quality provision..."

The guide aims to boost the growth of the sector, providing potential investors with confidence. It also aims to provide the existing 200+ early childhood centres and nurseries (including 15 new centres opened in 2021) the assurance they need the KHDA  is closely watching, and safeguarding, the sector. 

Lara Hudson, Director of Creakids Preschools, said of the publication:

"We are really pleased to see the Investors' Guide being shared yesterday by KHDA. It provides clarity in terms of age ranges, roles, responsibilities and expectations, all of which will support the continuation of high quality early childhood provision within Dubai."

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