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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 23 January 2019

Dubai parents look to new community schools and away from longer commutes

Schools in the desert suburbs of Dubailand, Sustainable City and Al Barari cut the need for travel and look to foster a 'community feel'

There is increasing demand from parents for schools in suburbs that children can walk or cycle to rather than being bussed across the city. Silvia Razgova / The National
There is increasing demand from parents for schools in suburbs that children can walk or cycle to rather than being bussed across the city. Silvia Razgova / The National

More schools are opting to open in the suburbs of Dubai in order to play a greater role in local communities and to improve pupils’ quality of life.

Schools have recently opened in locations such as Remraam, Sustainable City, Al Barari and Dubailand in the hope of serving the burgeoning communities there.

Joanne Wells, principal of South View School, which opened in Dubailand last year, said the schools meant “children can access school easily” and parents were pleased by shorter commutes and less exposure to the pollution experienced in inner city areas.

“We are recreating the commuting experience we remember as children and pupils don't have to wait in traffic on the way to school,” she said.

“We wanted to have a community feel and we are pleased to see pupils coming to school on bikes and scooters.”

South View School draws pupils from nearby communities such as Remraam, Mudon Town Square and Motor City.

Ms Wells said she hoped it will eventually have the resources to be a “hub for the whole community”.

A study by Knight Frank, a UK-based property consultant, released last month found that while more than half of Dubai private school pupils live less than 5 kilometres away from school, almost 30 per cent live more than 10km away.

Parents told The National that this was due to lower school fees or rents or a particular school offering a specialised education.

Yet representatives from new Dubai schools, such as The Aquila School in Dubailand and Fairgreen International School, which has plans to establish a school in Sustainable City, said they were keen to make their schools strength lie in being a service to the local community.

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Parents also said they believed their children benefited from living closer to their school, allowing them to spend the time they would have spent commuting on recreational activities.

Afsheen Sheikh, a Pakistani resident and mother-of-two, said her children struggled to get enough sleep as they woke up early and have many after-school activities.

"By the time the children get home it is about 5.30pm, if they have after-school activities. They hardly have enough time to do their homework, eat, and have some sort of recreation time.

"Sometimes, if they have too much homework, they just do that, eat and go to bed as they have to wake up early in the morning."

Clementina Kongslund, a Romanian parent and blogger at DubaiMums.com, lives near her daughters’ school in Dubailand and said her children loved it.

She said she believed having schools in the heart of the communities pupils lived in and that this helped them to strengthen bonds with fellow learners and forge new friendships.

"Having the school in the community is brilliant," Ms Kongslund said.

"Almost all the kids from the neighbourhood are going to the same school. All our neighbours send their children to the same school.

"It's great to see groups of children on bikes on the way to school.

"The best thing about having a school so close to home is that children can interact for a longer time.

"After school, they come to the park and play together so they know more children also outside their year of study."

Updated: January 5, 2019 04:42 PM

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