x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Schools overcharging for books and transport

Fee increase applications reveal some private schools in the capital have been overcharging parents for additional services.

Fee increase applications reveal some private schools in the capital have been overcharging parents for additional services.
Fee increase applications reveal some private schools in the capital have been overcharging parents for additional services.

ABU DHABI // Almost half the schools that have sought approval for fee increases next year are already overcharging parents for transport and textbooks.

Fifty-four of 186 private schools in the emirate applied for an increase in tuition fees for the 2011-2012 academic year. Some received approval last week but many are still waiting.

Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) said it had found irregularities in amounts some schools have been charging parents, which had to be cleared up before a decision could be made.

“The process is taking some time this year because a significant number of schools are not complying with the last approved school fees, and have exceeded them in some cases,” said Francesco Ruggiero, a manager in the licensing and accreditation department at Adec.

Mr Ruggiero said documents submitted by schools and complaints received from parents showed they were overcharging for services such as transport and textbooks.

He said Adec was still reviewing requests from schools, some of which had asked for increases as high as 40 per cent.

Final decisions would be made “in the coming weeks”, he said.

Adec permitted increases of between 5 and 20 per cent last year in approved schools.

It was not willing to release the names of schools which had applied for an increase this year.

Brian Fox, the division head for the licensing and accreditation department, said increases were granted on the basis of factors including inflation and school upgrades.

“We will determine the fees based on the ability of parents to pay and what would be a reasonable profit margin for the operator,” he said.

Parents said they should have been told about possible fee increases sooner so they could make alternative arrangements.

“Some time back my son’s school sent out a circular informing us about a possible 50 per cent increase,” said one mother, Michelle.

“They told us they had not received approval, but applying for such a big increase is disturbing in itself.”

Michelle said the authority should not wait until the end of the academic year to tell parents about increases.

“What if a 20 or 30 per cent increase is approved?” she asked. “It will still be expensive and now I cannot even move my child to another school.”

Dr George Robinson, superintendent at the American Community School in Abu Dhabi, said the school had recently received confirmation of a fee increase.

“It’s close to what we had asked for,” he said. “It is a challenge when the parents are informed of fee increases so late because they don’t have a choice then.”

He said the authority’s annual application procedure may have caused the delay.

“It’s not like the old system where a certain increase was allotted to be applied over three years,” he said. “The annual review is good, it just makes the process longer.”

The increase at the non-profit American school was to accommodate better teacher salary packages and new facilities.

Hana Awad, a mother of three, said the authority should not be approving annual increases.

“My kids’ schools have been increasing the amount every year and I can’t do much but pay,” Ms Awad said.

Michelle said she paid Dh2,000 for textbooks every year, which should be monitored and regulated.

The American International School in the capital has said it will not seek a fee increase this year but the school has applied for an increase in transport charges.

“We could not apply for one this year because of the increase we took before,” said Gareth Jones, the director of the school.

Mr Jones said the school was aware any service fee could not be charged without the approval of the authority.

“We would like to increase the transport fees this year because we are being charged more by the company we work with for this service,” he said.

aahmed@thenational.ae