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All School Holidays in the UAE – Dates, Advice, Help! A Guide for Parents

All School Holidays in the UAE – Dates, Advice, Help! A Guide for Parents

by Melanie SwanJanuary 13, 2020


A Special Report, January 2020, by Melanie Swan.


Family Travel: bringing the world to life for children ….

Already one third of the way through the UAE school calendar, many families around the UAE are thinking ahead to the upcoming spring and summer breaks. But how can we make those all important school holidays count, turning them into a positive period of time for growth, learning and connection whether as a family or when they’re with others?

With roughly half the UAE year spent on school holidays, just 185 days spent at school this year (2019/20), that doesn’t have to mean school is out. There are many creative ways to ensure your child doesn’t suffer and that the learning can continue, in a variety of shapes, places and forms to ensure the academic ‘slide’ syndrome doesn’t kick in, experts suggesting that long holidays mean an inevitable period of revision as children return to school, having lost vital reading and mathematical skills over long breaks, but this doesn’t have to be the case.

Travel, to take just one example, has been shown to have a positive impact on children’s development, not only boosting mental and physical health, but social interaction through family relationships too. Research has shown that not only can children detach from their usual routine, but they can feel empowered, learning to manage their own time. For children having a tough time at school, this can be a vital time to reboot, offering a safe haven for what may for some, be a traumatic place.



When are they?

School Holidays 2019/20
First Semester
Beginning of attendance of the Academic body 25/8/2019
Beginning of the Students’ attendance 1/9/2019
Winter vacation/students 15/12/2019- 9/1/2020
Winter vacation/ Academic body 22/12/2019-2/1/2020
Second Semester
Beginning of attendance of the Academic body 5/1/2020
Beginning of the Students’ attendance/ Resumption of study 12/1/2020
Spring vacation/students 29/3/2020-9/4/2020
Spring vacation/ Academic body 29/3/2020-2/4/2020
Third Semester
Beginning of attendance of the Academic body 5/4/2020
Beginning of the Students’ attendance/ Resumption of study 12/4/2020
End of the Students’ attendance 2/7/2020

Note: For Indian, Pakistani and Japanese curriculum schools, the academic year is from April to March. For all other curricular, it begins in September and ends in June or July.


Extra-curricular learning is key

Studies have found that out-of-classroom experiences during the school holidays are often the most impactful on a child’s learning, especially in senior years, with personal growth, increase in life skills, and knowledge, also resulting from independent or what researchers call, ‘objectiveless travel’.


Explore new cultures and places ….

Travel is an excellent opportunity to teach the children about foreign cultures in new and unique ways beyond the classroom. Giving children this first hand insight into cultures beyond their own not only opens their minds, but allows them to foster compassion and empathy, personal skills to take them into adult life. Even simple activities during the school holidays – from trying new foods or experiencing cultural events, can open a child’s eyes and mind to the world beyond the familiar.


Getting ready – preparation makes the difference

Photograph of preparations being made for the school holidays. Planning is important.

Preparing for your school holidays can also offer opportune ways to incorporate learning and life skills for your child. Pre-reading about a destination, studying its geographic location on maps, learning about its culture and people before you go, and planning out the must-see stops, can all play a huge role in how involved a child is in the whole experience, learning even more once you arrive. This is the chance to incorporate a child’s passions and interests and ensure the travels suit the whole family, making it altogether a better bonding experience as a family unit.


The benefits of staying at home ….

You don’t even need to fly! A 2013 study in the US, found that 12-18 year-olds who travelled at least 50 miles from home during the school holidays and were involved in learning about the history and culture of the area visited, even only for one night, had positive effects way beyond the classroom. Even a simple trip to a not-too-distant nature park or beach campsite can have as much impact as a long-haul holiday. Activities such as fishing and lighting the campfire all offer the chance to learn and interact, developing problem solving and creative thinking for a child who may be more used to rote learning and the iPad. Learning about the flora and fauna of an area for example, children can connect to nature, and perhaps start to understand the importance of living a more eco-friendly life.


What else can you do?

Many school holidays are long, particularly for working parents – so you may not be travelling throughout. There are several other ways to pique the little ones’ interest. From music to art lessons, maths camp to sport, there are many creative options available which help children build skills as well as relax. Indoor activity camps from Parkour to football, gymnastics to dance also offer a way to help release pent up energy, especially during the hot summer period. Don’t underestimate the power of down time. This is when children have to create their own entertainment; making tents from the clothes horse, using their imagination, writing stories, journaling, or drawing. Connecting as a family or with friends ensures social skills are maintained throughout this time too, preventing them getting lost in electronic devices or gaming, so whether playing board games, puzzles, cooking a meal together or just watching a movie, this time is precious too.


It doesn’t have to cost the earth ….

Desert trips in the UAE provide an on the doorstep experience that familis around the world dream of

Though the UAE has amazing theme parks from Legoland to Wild Wadi water park, there is much to do in the school holidays around the Emirates and it doesn’t all have to break the bank. Free activities include nature spotting at the Ras Al Khor nature sanctuary in Dubai where you may see one of the many flamingos amongst other wildlife. There are free workshops at the Jameel Arts Centre also in Dubai, amazing forts such as the Al Jahili Fort in Al Ain, or go on a day trip to experience the stunning views from atop Jebel Jais in RAK, the UAE’s tallest mountain. Abu Dhabi’s mangroves offer a beautiful environment to kayak and learn more about marine life while several groups offer guided hikes suitable for all the family, to experience the UAE’s beautiful scenery, or check out Sharjah’s multiple museums and galleries for a taste of UAE culture.



Journaling whether in picture or word format, can help children connect more deeply to their experiences, allowing time for reflection, and the integration of new ideas and experiences. Not only this, but it helps an experience truly embed more deeply in a child’s long-term memory, helping them feel like a part of the experience rather than simply an observer or outsider.


Bottom line? The SchoolsCompared view on school holidays

Parents naturally fret.

Am I making the most of my child’s holidays? Am I doing enough? How am I going to juggle work commitments? How can I afford to do the best for my child?

School holidays often bring stress, worry and guilt in equal measure.

If there is a single fact to take from this feature, it is that a child will benefit from holidays simply by virtue of their not being school time. Children are adaptable, naturally curious and will learn differently and richly at these important times – quite regardless of the formal activities you are able to put in place for them.

School holidays can be such an extraordinarily rich time of learning and fun, engaging children into activities and creativity they simply don’t have time for during the academic year. It’s also a time to do things more as a family, integrating family bonding with these activities.

At home or abroad, there is so much to do in the UAE nowadays, all year round, and they don’t have to break the bank.

Yes, it takes a little planning, but spending the time to ensure that some holiday time is assigned to different types of experience, will pay dividends to the family and the children, whether they are being taken care of by you or their caregivers.

Finally, it really does not have to cost the earth. Giving children the luxury of holiday time to become absorbed in books during the school holidays – and the many rich worlds of experience and adventure that they open up, might, finally, be the greatest lifetime gift of all to your child ……

© 2020. All rights reserved.

About The Author
Melanie Swan
Special Projects Reporter on, Melanie Swan is an accomplished news and features journalist, bringing to her role more than two decade's experience of reporting on what really matters at the coal face of human lives. She began her career at the News of The World, part of News International, in London in 2002, before moving to the Sunday People in 2005. Hired to join the launch team of The National in Abu Dhabi, Ms Swan came to the UAE in 2008, and stayed with The National for 9.5 years. "Where there is an important story in Education that needs reporting,"she told us, "I am there to ensure that readers get it first."

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