x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

School buses face stringent reforms

Cameras, satellite navigation systems and female attendants are among security measures to be introduced under new regulations.

ABU DHABI // Private school buses in the capital will be forced to use cameras, satellite navigation systems and female attendants when stringent regulations issued by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) come into play.

Once the sweeping regulations are approved by the Executive Council, all private schools will be expected to comply immediately. The bylaws, which will have implications for governance, student safety and security, and fee structures, will take two years to implement fully.

Yousif al Sheryani, executive director of private schools and quality assurance at Adec, said schools will be given time to implement some of the changes, but crucial changes, such as safety, must be put into effect as quickly as possible.

"Safety needs to improve in schools now; we cannot wait for two years for that change," he said.

Within the first six months, schools will have to adhere to new school bus safety standards.

"Every school should ensure there are cameras and GPS trackers in the buses," said Mr al-Sheryani. "We are also enforcing that female attendants be present in school buses that transport kindergarten to grade 5 students."

The footage from CCTV cameras will have to monitored by the school authorities.

The new regulations were drawn up over a year, using the results of private school inspections, and in co-operation with international experts from the US, UK, Australia and Finland.

They define standards for student and teacher codes of conduct, school leadership, attendance, guidance services, support and special needs services and health provisions.

Last year, Adec's first phase of inspection in 96 schools found quality of education in the capital varied widely. More than half achieved a satisfactory status, while 32 per cent were below the desired standard.

With more than 177,700 students enrolled in 182 private schools in Abu Dhabi, the director general of Adec Dr Mugheer Khamis al Khaili said the aim was to provide students with increased access to world-class education.

"The inspection process aimed at identifying weaknesses and strengths of schools, enhancing performance, improving educational services provided to students to meet Adec's standards and criteria," he said.

Mr al Sheryani said schools that were found to be underperforming last year will have workshops to develop a school improvement plan this month. Schools that did well move on to the accreditation phase, which will begin in May.

"Some schools did really well and they will gain their accreditation by the end of 2011," he said.

Schools that are accredited will retain their status for five years, although it can be revoked if standards slip.  Asked why Adec had not made the results of their private school inspections available to the public, Mr al Sheryani said: "We want to see where the school stands and then want to give them an opportunity to work on the gap between their quality and our expectations.

"But we understand that parents have the right to know about the quality of education at their child's school. So by 2013 we will make that information public."

Mr al Sheryani's warning for non-compliant schools is severe. "For those who are not up to the mark, we have only one message: either improve or shut down."

aahmed@thenational.ae