In a document titled “Operation of Nurseries and Childcare Centers during the Pandemic: Protocols & Procedures” the Ministry of Education has set out the mandatory requirements for good practice during Covid-19 in nurseries in Dubai. We understand that similar has been issued by ADEK in Abu Dhabi.
The document contains protocols in 14 categories. The categories are; Educational Establishment Entry Procedures, Examination & Emergency Plan, Personal Protection & Hygiene Equipment, Physical Distancing, Toys, Equipment, and Tools, Staff to Children Ratios, Communication & Readiness Plans, Priority of Admission, Food & Drinks, Protocols before Opening, Protocols after Opening, Training and Awareness, Compliance and Transportation.
Covid-19 prevention is exceptionally high priority for the authorities when it comes to nurseries, as the document goes on to state that:
“If more than one Covid-19 case is detected, the nursery shall be closed permanently”.
This is at odds with (and more stringent than) the policy for schools, who will close temporarily should more than two cases be found within their community. Other guidance points will be familiar to parents of school age children – these include temperature checks on arrival, strict cleaning and sterilisation and (for adults only) face masks and social distancing.
Most of the protocols relate to the internal operations of nurseries, however there are many that will directly impact parents, notably that nurseries will no longer be permitted to supply food to children or provide transportation (bus services). Parents must provide their children with healthy food from home and “assume responsibility for the transportation of their own children to and from nursery”.
With these detailed instructions in mind, nurseries across the country are now hard at work to ensure that their staff and internal procedures comply. We spoke to two Dubai nurseries about their plans to reopen.
Sharon Robertson, Nursery Manager at the soon to open Kent Nursery (our cover photo and below, part of the Kent College Dubai campus) felt confident that her team and children would thrive whilst operating within the new guidelines.
"I see this as an invitation to really focus on the most important aspects of early years education; communication and language, physical development and (especially important at present) the personal, social and emotional development of our children. Honestly, I am excited about the ways we can innovate and think about best practice in a new light.
“We already have incredibly high standards when it comes to hygiene and safety, so many of the ‘new’ requirements were not, in fact, new to us at all. Our children will be cared for in stable groups of 8 or 10 and our classrooms are large, allowing everyone to have lots of space.
“We are busy finding new ways to ensure that our children still have fantastic experiences and are ready to move on to Foundation Stage at Kent College when the time comes. It’s a shift in the way we think about things, you know…if our children use play-doh, they will have their own play-doh which they will make themselves and which will go home with them at the end of the week. We as adults are the brains behind all of this and we just need to think of the best ways of controlling those experiences whilst still allowing children to think for themselves and to explore and learn".
Mrs Roberston went on to say that;
“Our stable class groups will be cared for by the same staff all of the time. Our under 2s will be in groups of 8 and our over 2s in groups of 10. This means an opportunity to develop brilliant relationships with children and their families. To me, positive relationships are the absolute foundation of good early experiences for children”.
At Future International Nursery in Al Warqa, the team are relieved and excited to be preparing to welcome children once more. Director Hala Adel had this to say as they prepare their team and classrooms for October;
“The reopening of nurseries is great news and we feel that, finally, we are being recognised as an important industry. In anticipation of re-opening we have been working for last 2-3 months to fulfil all the possible regulations. We are doing our utmost to ensure the safety and health of our children, their families and our team.
"There are some aspects of the new regulations that are concerning to us. For example, if one child in a ‘bubble’ is affected the whole nursery is closed for 14 days. If we compare with schools the rule is not the same. What is more, if there are cases in a nursery, we will be forced to shut down, permanently! This is hard for us to understand.
"Moving forward, what we need now is the support and care of our parents. Parents too have a very important role and a duty of care towards ensuring that their child, when away from nursery is kept safe and avoids big gatherings. Parents play a vital role in the health and safety of children. No child should be sent into school having fever or having had paracetamol in the morning due to fever that night before".
With all the protocols and guidelines in hand, the team at Future International Nursery have now turned their minds to preparing for the emotional well-being of children.
Academic Director, Lysiane Ruf told WhichSchoolAdvisor.com:
“We are pleased to have the new guidelines and will adhere to them completely, however, we believe that what is missing from current conversations in the industry is a focus on the emotional health and well-being of children. A recent British survey showed that 80% of children age 5-17 have experienced some form of trauma during the lockdown. Small children experience the same stresses, but are less able to articulate their concerns. Often their experiences manifest themselves in their behaviour.
"We have encountered parents who report their children have become more clingy or aggressive or have regressed in terms of things like toilet training. Our focus now is on preparing our staff to deal with these kinds of issues calmly and effectively. We want our staff to be fully confident in the new ways of working so that they do not pass any of their own stress on to children.
“Lastly, I would say that we are looking forward to the cooler weather. In many northern countries, nurseries have taken their classrooms outside to allow even more space and distancing. We are fortunate to have lots of outdoor space at Future International Nursery and we will be sure to use it as much as we can”.