Picking a school for your child is one of the most tasking decisions to make as parents, and with just a few weeks to the start of the new academic year, making a last-minute school choice can be even more stressful.
Parents that are looking to change schools or have just moved to the country and are in search of a new school are currently faced with the difficult task of finding an all-around school with the right academic curriculum, as well as extra-curricular suited for their child.
To help make the process easier, Connector in conversation with teachers from schools across the UAE, has come up with some tips to find the right school for your child when time is of the essence.
The first thing to do when looking for a school is to do your research in advance. Based on what your child requires, be it flexible timings or a focus on their creative side, the right school will help hone all their talents.
Some schools prioritise academics while other's well-being.
Based on the environment your child thrives in, will help narrow the list of schools to visit.
As children spend a big portion of their day at school, finding the right fit where they can grow and develop is vital.
Abigail Fishbourne, Director of Learning at International Schools Partnership, which operate Nibras International School and The Aquila School in Dubai and Aspen Heights British School and Reach British School in Abu Dhabi, advised, "Some families, they will want an international school community where their child will learn alongside children from around the world. For others, they want a school with an extensive extracurricular offering, with sports, music and performing arts available for their children. Some families think uniforms, homework and a branded school are important, while others look at how a school focuses on well-being. Once you have this list made for your family try to work out why you feel this is important. Is it because it mirrors the education you had or maybe the education you wished you had had? If so, take time to consider your child, growing up in the 2000s, what is important for them."
There are many curriculums to choose from in the UAE and choosing the right one that fits your child is important, as it will also help in shaping their future career choices and the universities they are planning on going to.
Robert Ellis, Principal at Emirates International School Jumeirah suggested, "IB is the most transferable curriculum. It is based on an international set of standards, which covers everything which is in the other major curricula including the UK and US. The way in which students learn is very important. An IB classroom offers a happy, vibrant, interesting collaborative learning environment."
Additionally, school fees are a very important aspect when choosing a school and Mark Ford, Principal at The English College Dubai mentioned that, "The school fees should be appropriate and affordable for the parents."
With a wide option of schools available, visiting the school websites and finding the school fees plus additional fees required per year, from transportation and extracurricular activities, is good to know to find a school within your budget.
As no one anticipated a global pandemic, all schools had to move to an online format.
With online classes, teachers and schools had to adapt to the new circumstances to provide the best quality education for students and finding a school that is easily able to understand the requirements to teach the new generation is important.
Janice Butterworth, Director of Learning at Citizens School Dubai added, "Three years ago, no one could foresee the global pandemic that hit the world and as a result, schools and educators had to quickly react and rethink outside the traditional box and change their entire approach to educating a new Generation Alpha. The repercussions of this have been huge and now, even more so for parents, is making that decision as to which school to enrol your child in this new age. How do you select the most suitable school in this part of the world where there is a plethora of choice, curriculums and budgets to meet all parents’ needs?"
Another key requirement to consider is location and distance from the school.
Mark Atkins, Principal at Durham School Dubai advised, "Parents should think about the journey time for the children and consider weekend activities that might be run by the school also that will impact on family time and logistics."
Getting stuck in traffic as well as having to get up extremely early to travel is not ideal for your child, and when considering a school, looking for schools nearby will help in the long run.
The next step in looking for the right school is to visit the school, as makes it easier to assess the school environment and determine if the school is the right choice.
Robert Ellis, Principal at Emirates International School Jumeirah said, "You should see examples of learning all over the place. Classroom displays should be full of students’ learning and not just laminated teachers' work. Children should be happy and engaged. You want to be sure your child is safe and happy in the environment."
Visiting the school assures parents that the school is right for their child based on their requirements.
Meeting the principal and teachers while visiting the school is a great way to get a lot of insight into how the school operates.
Mark Ford, Principal at The English College Dubai added, "Ask if the board and the owner invest in the school and support the senior leadership team in investing and making decisions."
Parents can also use online groups on social media and contact the school to get all the information they require before making a decision.
Children should be given time to adjust to the new school environment and if the school is still not a right fit, there are plenty of schools to choose from in Dubai that will help unlock your child's potential.
Mark Atkins, Principal at Durham School Dubai said, "Parents will only find out if they have made the correct decision once the child has settled into the school and experienced it for a good few weeks. Sometimes, schools are just not the right fit for the children or there is a difference in parent expectations; it happens. Some children take longer to settle than others so you should give the school time and give your child time to settle and build friendships. At the end of the day, it can be stressful and upsetting but is not the end of the world if things are not working out. Thankfully, there is now a good choice of schools across Dubai."
Additionally, it is important to know that some schools have waiting lists and it is better to continue looking at a number of schools and always have a backup school ready.
As many families move to and leave Dubai, the application process constantly changes.
Janice Butterworth, Director of Learning at Citizens School Dubai advised, "Approach the school directly and check the availability of places. There is usually a significant amount of movement with families moving in and out of Dubai during the Summer months, so it is an ever-changing scenario. Admissions remain open in Dubai throughout the academic year if the school is offering seats however some of the more popular schools will have waiting lists. If your preferred school holds a waiting list, do continue looking for a suitable school."
"Choosing a school is like buying a house," Abigail Fishbourne, Director of Learning at International Schools Partnership said, "it is a long-term investment in your child’s happiness and future. When you are looking at schools, remember you are planning for their whole education and want to ensure you are making an informed and unrushed decision."
Parents need to be certain and trust their instinct, as they know their children the best and know their needs.
If you are choosing a school for your child on short notice, do not worry, as there are many ways to find the right fit.
When on the lookout for schools, using these tips with careful consideration can help to reduce stress and worry and ensure your child finds a great school to be a part of.
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Go Back To School Feeling Fit As A Fiddle!
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