The rules apply to all children age 6 years and under who do not currently attend school.
From September 2021 for schools following a September to July academic year - which includes American, British and IB curricula - children will need to have turned 3 years of age by 31st August. Currently, the cut off date is 31st December, meaning that children as young as 2 years and 9 months have been able to start in FS1/pre-KG classes.
For schools whose academic year commences in April - including Indian and Pakistani curricula - the same age requirements will be applied from the academic year starting April 2022. Thus children will need to have turned 3 years by 31st March in order to join pre-KG at the start of the academic year.
The new rule does not apply to children already enrolled in school in the UAE, but will impact children currently registered to attend school from September 2021. In addition, children who do not complete their current academic year in school (with many children having been withdrawn as a result of Covid 19) will be subject to the new regulations.
These rules apply to children entering school from FS1/pre-KG to Year 2/Grade 1 inclusive, and, according to the Ministry, have been introduced in order to align the cut off dates and ages of children concerned, to achieve greater consistency with those used by schools abroad. The KHDA uses the example of UK schools in the UAE which will now have the same cut-off date as schools in the UK and other international British schools outside the UAE.
For children who are starting school in the UAE in Year 3/Grade 2 or above, the transfer certificate from their previous school takes precedence over age criteria.
The following table shows the relevant details:
|Schools that start the academic year in September.|
|Grade/Year level||Age requirement|
|Foundation Stage 1 or Pre-KG||3 years old by Aug 31|
|Foundation Stage 2 or KG1||4 years old by Aug 31|
|Year 1 or KG2||5 years old by Aug 31|
|Grade 1 or Year 2||6 years old by Aug 31|
|Schools that start the academic year in April.|
|Pre-KG||3 years old by March 31|
|KG1||4 years old by March 31|
|KG2||5 years old by March 31|
|Grade 1||6 years old by March 31|
The Ministry has stated that there will be no variance from these dates - meaning that a child born even one day after the cut-off date will need wait to start school for a further year.
There is however one option for parents of children destined for school in September this year whose birthdays currently fall into the three month period affected by these changes, and who wish the current cut off dates to apply. If they are able to obtain enrollment in the final term of the current academic year in FS1/pre-KG or FS2/KG1, they will avoid the effect of the changes being applied in September.
How easy this will be, however, is not known. As a rule, schools do not take children from within the UAE after the middle of the academic year.