x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

4,000 pupils displaced as villa schools shut

The Abu Dhabi Education Council's closure of four schools that operated illegally out of villas in the capital will displace nearly 4,000 pupils.

ABU DHABI // Nearly 4,000 pupils will be displaced by the closure of four villa schools, the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) said yesterday.

Al Dhafra Private School, Al Manara Private School, a branch of Al Taawan Private School and Al Talae'e Private School will not be allowed to continue operating from their current premises from July - forcing 3,980 pupils to move to other facilities.

The closures are part of Adec's plan to shut schools illegally operating out of residential buildings.

All villa schools in Al Ain were shut in March. The 37 remaining schools have to close by the 2013-2014 academic year.

A federal decision in 1999 banned operators from using villas for educational purposes.

Several inspections found safety and security issues, and inappropriate learning environments.

The authority said it had to shut down Al Talae'e Private School, which follows the national curriculum, after its management failed to build a new campus within the legal time frame.

All other schools decided to move out before Adec's deadline.

Hamad Al Dhaheri, the executive director of Adec's private schools and quality assurance sector, said the authority had to take action against schools that did not fulfil the legal commitment.

"Each villa school that has promised to construct a new building must work hard to meet all of Adec's licensing requirements without any delay," he said. "Complete construction as quickly as possible once all necessary approvals are obtained".

Al Dhafra, which offers American and British curricula, will be moving to a purpose-built campus in September. Al Manara, a national curriculum school, will operate from a government facility until it builds its own campus.

Al Taawan, which follows the British system, has decided to merge with Merryland International School in Mussaffah. Both schools are managed by the Sherwood Group of Schools. A spokesman for Al Taawan said all necessary arrangements had been made to move the 1,700 pupils.

"All parents were informed about a possible move this year," he said. "Most have agreed to continue with us at the other campus."

The spokesman said there would be a change in the school's fee structure after Adec approval, but he refused to go into more detail. Adec said relocated schools can increase fees by up to 20 per cent.

All displaced pupils will be offered places at the new facilities.

Parents of children at Al Talae'e School can opt for Al Manara or a new school, Yas Academy, for the coming academic year.

Children at affected schools will get priority during the admissions process for the coming academic year, until June 28 only.

Mr Al Dhaheri said Adec was working with villa school operators to ensure minimum disruption.

"It is very pleasing to see Al Dhafra Private School moving to new buildings it has constructed. Adec looks forward to seeing other villa schools follow suit," he added.

aahmed@thenational.ae