x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

One in five nurseries handed warning over care standards

Four premises shut down as Ministry of Social Affairs unveils three-year plan to raise quality.

DUBAI // A fifth of all nurseries have received warnings so far this year for failing to meet standards. The Ministry of Social Affairs made the announcement yesterday as it revealed details of a three-year plan to improve the quality of nurseries. It said its inspectors had issued warnings to 45 of 230 the nurseries across the country. They also closed down four of them.

By comparison, only 15 warnings were issued for all of last year, according to ministry statistics. Nurseries that are not up to scratch get a first warning, which carries a Dh5,000 (US$1,350) fine. They then have 90 days to fix the problem or else face being shut down. The ministry said about half the nurseries warned so far this year did not have a nurse on staff, as they are required to. Some were sanctioned for taking care of children older than five. Nurseries are allowed to care for children between the ages of three and five only.

Others did not meet a requirement of having one childcare supervisor for every three to six children on hand. As part of the initiative, the ministry has proposed a new set of rules for nursery operators. They range from the quality of care and education to building and health and safety standards. The nurseries must also provide training courses for staff to ensure they are providing quality education.

The ministry will then start categorising nurseries according to the quality of their services, said Moza al Shoomi, the director of its child department. There will be four levels ranging from A to D and fees will be linked to the different categories. "We will place the categories of nursery on our website so parents will be able to identify the standards of nurseries," she said. "We are aiming so that by 2013 there will be no nursery in category D as this is an unacceptable category for us."

The classifications will be reviewed annually. The ministry plans to submit the proposal to the Cabinet for approval by the end of this year, Ms al Shoomi said. It has already started linking the renewal of nursery licences to the quality of services provided since the beginning of the year, and has intensified inspections. wissa@thenational.ae