It’s back to school for thousands of students as schools across the UAE are set to open in September. In our ‘Back to school’ series, DubaiDiaries talks to David Cook, Chief Education Officer for the Repton Family of Schools to know more about the measures they are taking to ensure procedures are being followed.
DD: What is your institution doing to ensure social distancing of students – do you have a smaller numbers in each classroom?
DC: Repton Dubai has a superb and very large campus, with significant indoor and outdoor capacity. It’s campus size is campus 1.3 million sq. ft., making it the largest school campus in the UAE, and means that means Repton Dubai can safely accommodate all our students on site, whilst still adhering to social distancing rules. Foremarke School boasts fantastic facilities and capacity to accommodate all students and staff safely on site.
DD: What is your institution/s doing to ease the economic burden on parents – many of them are either jobless or have had to take a pay cut?
DC: The Repton Family of Schools in the UAE – comprising Repton Dubai, Foremarke School Dubai and Repton Abu Dhabi – set up an immediate AED 8 million Repton Family Support Fund (RFSF) in March this year, providing financial support to its families suffering financial hardship as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, all parents who re-registered their children have received a 15% fee reduction from last year’s Term 3’s fees, applied to the new 2020-2021 academic year.
DD: What measures are you taking to ensure the mental health of students to them them adapt to a new normal – especially those who have recovered from COVID-19 or have had family members in quarantine/hospital/recovering?
DC: Both Repton Dubai and Foremarke School have qualified school Well-Being Advisers and Counsellors, and a full-tim UK qualified doctor. Our pastoral teams are trained and experienced in identifying and supporting children and young adults, to promote positive mental health and to support the vulnerable. They will also work closely with families at home, because the mental health of our parents is as important as that of our students, especially in light of our full-time opening.
DD: How do you see the future of education in a COVID-19 era and post COVID-19?
DC: Across the Repton Family of Schools, the distance learning model has taught us that whilst we can deliver online learning at home, children and adults thrive when they learn and grow together, that’s why a return to campus is so important. The lockdown has enabled schools to closely work with parents and we shouldn’t lose this momentum; in addition greater use of technology will allow more personalization of the curriculum, and more regular feedback and communication with parents.
DD: Are your schools geared up for the changes that COVID-19 has brought about?
DC: Planning and preparation is well under way, and the detailed plans have been officially reviewed and approved by the KHDA, and we are confident that we will meet and exceed the detailed safety protocols that the regulators have mandated. We look forward to welcoming new students on 27th August,and all students on 30th August.
DD: We are keen to know what your institution did during the lockdown to ensure students continued to learn – was there any kind of innovative approach to this?
DC: All students had a mixture of live and recorded lessons, delivered on a daily and weekly basis, via several technology platforms, such as Seesaw, Showbie, Zoom and Microsoft Teams. There were many innovative and creative ideas and tasks created by the staff to keep students and parents engaged, including re-creating famous art pieces at home using every day household items, an online fitness challenge running or walking from Repton Dubai to Repton UK, and science in my kitchen!
DD: Are you working on any other interesting initiatives?
DC: With the launch of the UAE mission to Mars and the World EXPO getting closer, Repton Dubai this year is focusing specifically on science, innovation and technology, and how we promote these key areas across the school. As an Apple Distinguished School, Foremarke School will continue to share best practices and embed technology in the curriculum to raise student attainment.