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KHDA FAQ on Omicron and School Openings – School Regulator Answers all the Key Questions to help Schools, Parents and Students navigate the New School Year
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KHDA FAQ on Omicron and School Openings – School Regulator Answers all the Key Questions to help Schools, Parents and Students navigate the New School Year

by Jon WestleyJanuary 10, 2022

The New 4.5 Day Working Week

What is the new decision affecting the working week?

The UAE government has announced a 4.5-day working week for government staff and schools. Starting from January 1 2022, the official working days are Monday to Friday, with Friday being a half day that ends at 12pm.

When was the first day school in 2022?

The first day of school for 2022 is Monday, January 3.

Can schools finish the day earlier than 12pm on Fridays?

The school day can finish earlier than 12 pm on Fridays.

Can schools finish the day later than 12pm on Fridays?

The school day cannot finish later than 12 pm on Fridays.

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To make sure overall school hours are not reduced,

  1. Can schools start the school day earlier?
    Schools have this option, provided they consult with parents.
  1. Can schools finish the school day later?
    Schools have this option, provided they consult with parents.

Does the decision apply to staff working hours, or only student school attendance?

The Saturday and Sunday weekend, as well as the 12pm Friday finish, applies to students and staff at private schools.

Will all private schools follow the same daily timings, or are variations allowed?

Some flexibility is allowed to ensure that schools are able to meet their curriculum requirements. All schools should inform KHDA of their updated operating hours.

 

 Changes in Protocols – January 2022

What changes have been made?

As a precautionary measure, all trips, events and internal gatherings – such as assemblies and performances – must be put on hold. This includes PE lessons.

Extra-curricular activities taking place at the school, either within or outside of school hours, must be put on hold.

Cafeterias and canteens must be closed.

Why have these changes been made?

The health, safety and wellbeing of the Dubai education community continues to be a priority. Dubai Government authorities are working together to monitor and update policies to ensure students and staff stay safe in a changeable environment.

How long will these changes be in place?

These changes will be in place for two weeks starting from Monday, January 3rd. Any updates to this will be shared as quickly as possible.

Which schools do these changes apply to?

These changes apply to all private schools in Dubai.

What happens if students or staff have Covid-like symptoms?

Seek medical advice or test for any Covid-like symptoms.

Students or staff who have any Covid-like symptoms must not go to school. Schools must give students with Covid-like symptoms the option of distance learning. Students and staff may return to school when they no longer show any Covid-like symptoms.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you should follow isolation guidelines per Dubai Health Authority. A clearance certificate to be issued by Dubai Health Authority is required to return to school after isolation is completed.

For a complete list of COVID symptoms and isolation guidelines for confirmed cases please refer to Dubai Health Authority.

What happens if students or staff are identified as close contacts?

In line with Dubai Health Authority guidelines, students and staff who have been identified as close contacts by the school’s Health and Safety Officer must quarantine for seven days. Students must be given the option of distance learning.

A PCR test is not required for close contacts to return to school unless they develop Covid symptoms. Household members of the close contact do not need to self-isolate, unless the close contact develops Covid-19 symptoms.

What happens if students or staff test positive for Covid-19?

In line with Dubai Health Authority guidelines, students and staff who have tested positive for Covid-19 must complete 10 days of home isolation. Students must be given the option of distance learning. They must receive a clearance certificate authorised by Dubai Health Authority before returning to school.

What can schools do if students and staff test positive for Covid, or are close contacts?

Schools are trusted to protect the health and safety of students and staff at all times. Existing procedures enable school leaders to move a class, grade/year level or the whole school to distance learning for a 48-hour period without prior approval. We work closely with school leaders to ensure that students and staff are able to return to a safe school environment.

Are face masks still necessary?

Face masks play a crucial role in preventing the spread of Covid. All students above the age of six, and all adults at school, must continue to wear masks properly in line with health and safety protocols.

Will there be any other changes?

For now, schools are expected to continue complying with existing health and safety protocols.

How will we know about updates?

Updates will be sent to school leaders, posted on KHDA social media channels and shared as FAQs on our website.

 

COVID 19 Vaccinations

Are PCR tests mandatory?

Effective from Sunday 11th of April 2021, employees who are eligible but choose not to be vaccinated must take the PCR test every seven days. This applies to all private education institutes in Dubai, including early learning centres, schools, universities and training institutes.

PCR tests are also mandatory if symptoms of Covid-19 are present.

Does this decision apply only to educators?

No. This decision applies to all staff working at early learning centres, schools, universities and training institutes. It includes support staff, outsourced staff and casual or part-time staff.

What are the eligibility criteria for the vaccine?

All adults in Dubai are eligible to take the Covid-19 vaccine, with the exception of groups mentioned in this pamphlet from Dubai Health Authority.

Can we choose the type of vaccine to take?

There are a variety of vaccines available in Dubai. Please contact Dubai Health Authority for more information on this.

Is it necessary for eligible, non-vaccinated staff to take the PCR test even if they are working remotely?

All eligible and unvaccinated staff, whether working remotely or face-to-face, must take the PCR test every seven days.

Do eligible, non-vaccinated staff have to take the PCR test when they are on holidays?

It is not necessary to take the PCR test while on holidays.

In which circumstances do I not have to take the PCR test every seven days?

You do not have to take the PCR test every seven days if you are not currently eligible for the vaccine, or if you have already had your first dose. More information on Covid-19 vaccines and eligibility is available in this pamphlet from Dubai Health Authority.

 

Physical distancing

Does the 1.5-metre physical distancing still apply at schools?

From this academic year, one-metre distancing is recommended. Schools must take appropriate precautions to ensure that students and teachers stay physically distanced where possible.

Are face masks compulsory in the new academic year?

Yes. Students older than six years, staff and visitors to schools must continue to wear face masks.

 

FAQs for Parents

Will school be the same as it was before the pandemic?

For the foreseeable future, schools will have to comply with health and safety guidelines to protect everyone against infection. These mean that school may not look or feel the same as before the pandemic. Each school will have its own way of complying with the health and safety protocols. Your child’s school will communicate these with you as soon as possible.

I feel nervous about sending my kids back to school – what can I do?

We know that returning to school could be a worrisome time for parents and students. Schools will be following specific health and safety guidelines to protect students and staff. If you feel nervous about sending your children to school, please speak with the school to learn more about how they’re approaching health and safety, and what you can do to play your part. Being safe at school is everyone’s responsibility.

What health and safety conditions will schools have to follow in the new academic year?

Maintaining health and safety is everyone’s responsibility. Conditions to protect students and staff include:

  • Testing all school staff before schools reopen
  • Screening all students and staff for temperature at entry point to the school
  • Maintaining physical distance guidelines as recommended by the relevant health authorities and reducing the head-count capacity in classrooms.
  • Limiting gatherings and suspending group activities such as school celebrations, and sports events;
  • Organizing and managing the students’ working day including mealtimes to avoid high concentrations of students in one place.
  • Sterilising the school building, classrooms, laboratories and other facilities regularly;
  • Ensuring that support & maintenance service staff do not enter the school when students and staff are present
  • Appointing a trained health and safety official to ensure that people and processes in the school comply with health and safety protocol.

 

FAQs for Schools

How can a school report a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case?

Schools must report any suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case to a dedicated Dubai Health Authority helpline by calling 800588 or emailing [email protected] and follow relevant protocols.

KHDA has approved our operations model for the new academic year, but we’d like to make small changes. Do we have to ask for approval again?

This depends on the changes you’d like to make. Please email our team for guidance.

 

Students of Determination

Can students who have physical disabilities that prevent them from being completely independent receive support from their nannies?

All protocols applying to school staff – such as wearing PPE and testing negative for Covid-19 – will also apply to nannies.

Are speech therapists, occupational therapists, behavioural therapists and other medical specialists who provide on-site therapy allowed to be in close proximity to their students during therapy sessions?

All protocols applying to school staff – such as wearing PPE and testing negative for Covid-19 – will also apply to therapists. All therapists will also need to adhere to any protocols issued by their regulatory authority.

 

Distance Learning Evaluation

What is the DLE?

The DLE is a joint initiative between the UAE Ministry of Education (MoE), the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) and the Sharjah Private Education Authority Ministry of Education (SPEA) designed to evaluate the quality of distance learning provided by public and private schools in the UAE.

Can schools receive parents for a school tour?

We encourage schools to host virtual school tours and online consultations with prospective families. Any in-person school tours should adhere to physical distancing requirements and comply with health and safety guidelines. School tours must be provided by-appointment only and not in large groups.

What is the purpose of the DLE?

The DLE has been developed to create shared expectations of distance learning for schools, parents and students and to provide schools with feedback in order to help them improve key aspects of their provision.

How was the DLE devised?

Teams from MoE, KHDA, ADEK and SPEA interviewed principals and teachers at public and private schools across the UAE to discuss the implementation of distance learning by their schools, and to gain an understanding of how it can be improved.

Evaluation criteria and processes were developed and piloted with a number of public and private schools and insights gained during these pilot evaluations were used.

What will schools be evaluated on?

The DLE will cover the following three zones:

  • Students’ distance learning and wellbeing
  • Teaching and monitoring of students’ learning
  • Leading and managing students’ learning.

Each of these zones is subdivided into themes, which are supported by descriptors.

How will the DLE be implemented?

Each school evaluation will be conducted remotely and is expected to take approximately five hours. It will include online meetings with the principal and senior leadership team, as well as remote observation of lessons. Schools will be given prior notice of an evaluation.

How will the outcomes of the evaluation be shared?

DLE outcomes will be shared with the schools and will also be published at a later stage.
Staff.

 

Students of Determination

How will students of determination be able to access distance learning?

Teachers will adapt and differentiate the curriculum to consider the needs, abilities and learning preferences of students of determination. Teachers will also ensure that they maintain their students’ levels of engagement, participation and progress.

Are Learning Support Assistants allowed to be in close proximity to their students to help them with their needs?

LSA staff can support students, as long as all personal protective equipment (PPE) are used to protect both the students and the LSA.

What is the expectation of a learning support assistant who is employed to support to a student of determination?

Learning support assistants play a vital role in supporting the educational programme for student of determination. Under the supervision of the head of inclusion and designated teacher, the LSA should play a key role in supervising, supporting and monitoring the educational programme and the associated targets.

What happens if a student of determination cannot access the school’s distance learning programme?

For students of determination who are unable to access distance learning, schools should provide an alternative life-skills based programme that can be applied at home. This programme should embed subjects such as maths, english, and science in every-day activities such as making phone calls, writing emails, cooking and personal organisation tasks. Key skills such as communication, problem solving, working with others, using and applying number and independence should also be developed through these activities.

If a student of determination is not attending the school site how will they access learning?

Teachers will use distance learning processes to adapt, differentiate and deliver the curriculum in response to the student’s needs, abilities and learning preferences. This will include promoting and monitoring the student’s engagement, wellbeing, participation and progress.

How do students of determination access specialist support if they’re doing distance learning?

Students who access specialist services such as speech and language therapy should continue to do so while they’re learning from home. Many therapists and other specialists are able to provide remote therapy services online. For a small minority of students who are unable to access online therapy, schools should provide information, training and guidance to parents about how to apply therapeutic approaches in the home to aid the development of these targeted skills. This may include working with external specialists to develop bespoke packages of support.

How are Learning Support Assistants able to help students of determination who are doing distance learning?

Learning support assistants play a vital role in supporting their students. Under the supervision of the head of inclusion and designated teacher, the LSA can supervise, support and monitor their students and their learning.

What happens if a student of determination can’t take part in face-to-face learning and can’t access distance learning?

For students of determination who are unable to attend the school site due to risks associated with a severe health condition and cannot meaningfully access remote learning because of the complexity of their learning needs, schools should provide an alternative life-skills based programme that can be applied at home in order to provide a continuity of learning. An example of such an approach is provided in KHDA’s publication ‘School-Home Provision – A collaborative approach to distance learning for students of determination’ and is available through the following link: https://www.khda.gov.ae/en/publications/article?id=10259

Will students of determination still have access to a learning support assistant when they return to face-to-face learning?

Yes. Students of determination who need support from a learning support assistant will continue to have this support at school. If the student requires a level of support at a close proximity (i.e. less than 1.5 meter distance), personal protective equipment (PPE) must be used to protect both the student and the learning support assistant.

Can students of determination access specialist services such as speech and language or behaviour therapy?

Yes. Students of determination who require access to therapeutic services in school should continue to access this provision. All the health and safety rules that apply to school staff also apply to therapists. Therapists must also ensure that they adhere to regulations issued by the permit issuance entity. If the therapy service requires the student and the therapist to be in close proximity (i.e. less than 1.5 meter distance) then PPE must be worn.

Can students of determination be exempt from wearing face masks?

Item 44 of the ‘Protocols for re-opening private schools in Dubai’ states that students can be exempt from wearing a face mask if they have been issued a medical certificate stating this. In this case, the school should make alternative arrangements to ensure the health and safety of students and staff.

Can students of determination continue to access level 1, 2 and 3 support provision in school?

All students who have been assigned level 1, 2 or 3 support services in school should continue to access these at school. Schools should prioritise the health and safety of students and staff by following ‘Protocols for re-opening private schools in Dubai’ and other directives or guidelines provided by government authorities.

How do students of determination access specialist support as part of their distance learning programme?

For students of determination that access specialist services, such as speech and language therapy, as a key part of their educational programme this provision should continue. Many therapists and other specialists are providing access to remote therapy services. For a small minority of students who are unable to access online opportunities in a way that is helpful, schools should provide information, training and guidance to parents about how to apply therapeutic approaches in the home to aid the development of these targeted skills. This may include working with external specialists to develop bespoke packages of support.

Can new and returning students of determination continue to be assessed to identify their needs?

Yes. It is essential to identify as early as possible the learning needs, abilities and interest of students of determination to be able to plan and adjust their education provision and intervention targets. Assessments, whether conducted by the school personnel or external visiting professionals, should adhere to all relevant health and safety protocols. If the assessment procedures require the student and the assessing team to be in close proximity (i.e. less than 1.5 meter distance) then PPE must be worn. Item 45 of the Protocols allows staff who are in direct contact with children to wear transparent masks or face shields to enable lip reading, and facial expression.

What is best for students of determination: a face-to-face or distance learning education model?

There is no single model that is best for all students of determination. Schools should closely consult with parents of students of determination to better understand their preferences and circumstances. Schools should determine whether the return to face-to-face learning poses any health and safety risks for the student or others around them. If so, the school must plan for and provide any needed additional protection.

 

Financial issues

I am having trouble getting paid by my school, university, training institute, what can I do?

Please contact the Ministry of Emiratisation and Human Resources and discuss your eligibility for payment through your legal agreement with them: https://www.mohre.gov.ae/en/services/labour-offices.aspx.

 

Advice

For more information about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
Please call:
– Estijaba Service on 8001717
– Dubai Health Authority on 800342 or
– Ministry of Health and Prevention on 80011111

About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of SchoolsCompared.com and WhichSchoolAdvisor.com UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at] schoolscompared.com

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