Back To School: What Role Do Schools Play

As schools prepare to welcome back their students, they try to ensure they settle back into the classroom easily and effortlessly after a long summer break.

Everyone from students moving to new grades to FS1 students and specially parents are taken into consideration while planning for this major period ater a few months break.

Here is what some of Dubai’s schools are up to for welcoming back the classes of 2019-20.

Programmes For Existing Students

Schools across Dubai adopt multiple measures to make the ‘back to school’ transition period as smooth as possible for students as well as parents. From assigning special buddies to conducting induction sessions, arranging staff training and organising well-being days in the initial week, there’s much more that schools do to ensure that coming back to school is not stressful. There are special programmes for parents as well considering it is as equally a tough time for them.

Dean Pyrah, Executive Principal, Victoria International School Sharjah says, “[We organise] robust “bump up” transition programs for each year of the school where students spend a considerable amount of time with teachers in the learning spaces used by the year that they are going into. These programs include a significant amount of peer to peer mentoring where students from one grade mentor the students from the grade below on what to expect in the year to come. This program takes place at the end of the year before to prepare students for the next academic year aimed at minimising summer anxiety.”

Sreekala Sureshkumar, Senior Supervisor (Grades 11 and 12) – GEMS Modern Academy says, “As our academic year has already started, students joining in September have been given access to academic material so that they find it easier to find their feet academically. Daily monitoring throughout the first week of joining in helps us keep track of new students and existing students as well.”

Sarah Brannon, Head of Preparatory School, Brighton College Dubai says, “To start with we have a special induction session for new pupils on their own. This is an opportunity to meet the teachers and they will be grouped together to do some team building activities and orienteering tasks to help them bond and develop friendships quickly and to start to get know the layout of the school.”

Jackie Greenwood, Head of Counselling at Fairgreen International School says, “From the minute you step into Fairgreen you will be greeted with smiles and an eagerness to help our new families. On a practical level, we host an orientation event for parents and students, with our leadership team and all of our teachers and staff, will engage with our new students during orientation activities. We open up lots of opportunities for peer to peer interaction, with a focus on friendship in our first few weeks of school.”

Naveed Iqbal- Principal, ISCS Nad Al Sheba says, “It is important that both parents and students are well settled into their new school or year, we find that sometimes parents require more of a transition than students who are quick to adapt and settle in.  With this in mind, as a school we have a number of parent induction sessions at the start of the year and workshops throughout, so that our parents are well informed about the school, its vision, values and expectations and how they can help as partners in the school.”

Programmes For FS1 Students

Schools go an extra mile to make special provisions for new and fresh entrants to the school setting, the FS1 students. From half-days, to induction sessions, allowing parents in the classroom and training parents on separation issues and managing anxiety, schools do everything to settle down the little one in a new environment. 

Jackie Greenwood, Head of Counselling at Fairgreen International School says, “In many ways this question helps us reassure our parents, as we know from our experience, that it is more a case of how do we help our parents feel comfortable letting their babies start school! So in answer to this, we find it vital that parents talk to us about their children, we really do have an open door, as we want to support as much as we can.

Excellent communication between school and home about expectations, and the program often helps allay any anxieties. We have a brilliant team of kind, playful, enthusiastic, early year’s teachers that helps our FS1 children feel content, secure, and excited about their learning. Our class sizes are small, and each class has an assistant to help. In the first weeks of school, circle times will focus on friendship and helping the children settle into a routine.”

Schools have found that it takes a child a week to adapt to the new environment. “We have found that most students settle into their classes well, should a child take time to settle in after the first week, we will then work with the parents to have a personalised transition plan to help the child settle and enjoy their learning and school”, says, Naveed Iqbal of ISCS Nad Al Sheba.

“The first day at Dubai British School Jumeirah Park is spent acclimatising the children to their new environment and allowing them to get to know each other”, comments Principal, Brendon Fulton

Andrew Mitchell, Head of Primary at Greenfield International School says, “We operate a half-day timetable during the first week for our youngest students to help them make the transition. During the first few days we also make sure there are lot of activities they like to do and get them involved in songs and games with the other students.”

Programmes For Parents

Schools organise dedicated sessions to inform parents on grade specific curriculum outlines and expectations in mathematics, reading and digital learning. Dean Pyrah of Victoria International School Sharjah says, “The school has a comprehensive program of information sessions regarding curriculum, wellbeing and school processes that run both in the previous academic year and within the first month of school. We also have one on one wellbeing-focused parent meeting in the first few weeks of school.”  Sreekala Sureshkumar of GEMS Modern Academy says, “It is not unusual to find new parents spending the day in school simply soaking up the ambience! Parents of students in Transition years , especially in the senior sections of the school are met within the first two weeks of school re-opening in sessions that are aimed at helping them navigate through important details of the academic term ahead.”

Parents are kept in regular contact with the school through letters from the principal with important updates and information about the school. Barry Cooper, Deputy Head Academic, Brighton College Dubai says, “We always have information sessions for our parents, but this year we will be going one step further and as the term develops, we plan to offer language and fitness sessions for the families of our children too.” 

Ramesh Mudgal, Principal, Global Indian International School, says, “School shares newsletters with parents giving them a snapshot of the previous month and the heads up on the upcoming month’s events and activities.”

Special events are organised to introduce parents to one another. Fairgreen International School hosts a Supper Club evening in September as an opportunity for new and returning parents to mix and mingle. Andrew Mitchell of Greenfield Community School says, “Throughout the year we hold weekly coffee mornings, sometimes based on either primary or secondary priorities sometimes focusing on whole themes. These cover everything from assessment to discussing the results of the Dubai Well-being Survey and aim to provide useful information and advice as well as hear the views of parents.”

New Initiatives For The School Year

With each new year, schools strive hard to improve what they do, how they do it and what they offer pupils, to make sure they contribute to the education industry as a whole. One example will see Victoria International School Sharjah transitioning across differt classes to teaching through more digital platforms. Sarah Brannon, Head of Preparatory School, Brighton College Dubai says, “We are looking forward to using our new 400m running track and the full size astro-turf rugby pitch inside it to support our pupils’ track and field opportunities.”

Providing an excellent foundation for budding scientists, innovators, economists and engineers, Jackie Greenwood of Fairgreen International School says, “The school is launching two exciting programmes DEC - The Design, Engineer and Construct program (DEC) and Maths No Problem." 

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