Schools Cannot Reject SEN Students, Charge More

New rules come in from the 2020/1 academic year. Dubai's private schools must accept "students of determination", and will not be able to charge additional fees for these students.
Schools Cannot Reject SEN Students, Charge More
By David Westley
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From the 2020/1 academic year, Dubai's private schools must accept children with special needs (known in the UAE as "students of determination"), and will not be able to charge additional fees for these students - except under some circumstances, according to new rules, outlined by Dubai's education regulatory, the KHDA, yesterday.

SEN Guidelines, Key Points:
- Schools MUST accept students of determination
- Schools CANNOT demand extra fees for such enrolments
- However, in some individual cases, “an enhanced level of provision” may be required. Individualised fees demanded by a school should not exceed the actual cost of the provision.
- To register this provision, an individualised agreement and associated fees will apply. This must be registered by the school with the KHDA.
- Schools that turn away students of determination will be reviewed and may face action

According to new ‘Directives and Guidelines for Inclusive Education’, issued by the KHDA, provided the legal responsibilities of schools regarding students of determination.

“Private schools across Dubai are required to provide the standard school service for students of determination as part of the provision provided through the school’s standard tuition fee.

"In exceptional circumstances, an enhanced level of provision may be registered through an individualised service agreement including a stated individualised service fee.

"The associated fees must be no more than the actual cost of the services provided”.

This agreement, between the student’s parent and school, must be registered with the KHDA and “can only be applied when the required provision is not available through the standard school service for students of determination”.

Examples where the agreement would be applicable includes the need for therapists or specialist practitioners holding the “specific qualification and licensing requirement to deliver such programmes; implementing interventions that are evidence-based and internationally proven and developed to meet the specific needs of a particular student of determination”.

The KHDA describes this as Level 3 support, which should apply to "very few" children of determination.  It involves programmes that are individually developed... focused upon reducing the student’s experience of significant and sustained social, emotional, or academic barriers to learning."

According to the new requirements, schools must also “provide parents and KHDA with clear documentation that the individualised service is required, and is a necessary component of the student’s educational provision”. The agreement will be “reviewed and monitored by KHDA and may lead to associated follow up or action…”

“Our conversations with parents and schools have made us aware of challenges faced by students of determination and these recommendations are aimed at filling gaps in current practices,” Fatma Ebrahim Belrehif, CEO of KHDA’s Dubai School Inspection Bureau and the chairperson of Dubai inclusive education strategic taskforce, said in a statement released to the press.

Under the directives, schools must accept students of determination or notify KHDA when refusing admissions or re-enrollment on exceptional grounds. The new requirements of schools will be monitored through targeted visits by KHDA.

"We will work in partnership with schools to ensure compliance," commented Mohammad Darwish, CEO of Permits and Compliance at the regulator.

It is not known how these rules will affect the small number of schools that describe themselves as academically selective in the UAE. It is also unclear how this will affect overall fees, for all parents, if a school feels it cannot provide what the KHDA describe as Level One and Level Two support without additional resources.

According to the KHDA release yesterday, both schools and parents "warmly welcome the introduction of the statutory requirements and enhanced processes that focus upon removing the most significant barriers to inclusion.

The KHDA adds that the "new publication contains particularly important information for owners, operators and governing board of Dubai private schools".

The report may be found here.

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