High Demand for Schools
I asked a friend recently what school they had their child registered for? They replied with a giggle that they had not even thought about it as their child was only 2 ½ years of age! I replied with a worried look – You must!
You must because school places especially at primary level have always been at a premium in Dubai. As Dubai grew so did the amount of schools but demand has always outstripped places. Another added problem is that people are very keen to place their children into the more established schools as naturally many new schools face teething problems.
Traditionally early years ( ie. ages 3 ½ to 7 years) and the first couple of years of secondary (ie ages 11 to 14 years) have always been the most sought after places but as Dubai has developed more and more people are making this a long term posting and other years are now very full.
If you are not yet living in Dubai many of the initial inquiries can be done from your home country by phone or email. When choosing a school decide on the curriculum you would like your child to follow, decide on the area that you think would be most convenient for you then check out each schools website to see what the earliest time is that you can register your child. Because of the high demand for places many schools such as JESS and Repton have put on their website which years have a waiting list and which years waiting lists are closed. Some schools issue company debentures. These are usually to large companies who support a school on a long term basis for example investing in the initial building of the schools. This gives the eligible employees priority on the waiting lists however once the number of debentures that company have been issued are used they cannot be used by other employees till a child using one of the company debentures leaves the school but it is worth checking if your company has any debentures.
Of course every parent must visit the prospective schools to identify which schools would suit your child but at the end of the day do not narrow your choice down to just one school. I would always recommend applying to at least two or three schools in case the first is full. Certainly this will incur an expense at each school of a registration fee which ranges between Dhs 300 and Dhs 500 and this is almost always non refundable however it is worth it at the end of the day.
Secondary education has been traditionally easier to get places in however Year 7 (age 11) is still much in demand. Many schools such as DESS, JESS, Repton, DAA, JPS, ASD etc. have secondary schools attached to their primaries giving automatic entry to their primary school children. If you do not have children at the attached primary it is important to register before the October of the next academic year. Schools usually have an entrance test for the children not at their primary school between November and January but again demand is high so it is recommended to apply to a couple of schools to avoid disappointment.
Even though many expats in Dubai would like to stay for a long time this for many is not their choice and during this economic downturn I have witnessed many families leaving at very short notice. The majority of schools ask for one terms notice but sometimes this is just not possible. Even though a school has a waiting list if that waiting list is still open it is worth applying as these lists change constantly. If you and your child really want to get into a specific school but there is a waiting list it is maybe an idea to accept a place at another school and stay there until a place at your desired school becomes available instead of maybe turning down the job in Dubai altogether because of school places. It is worth noting though that there are strict KHDA regulations on when you can move schools – these are
• Moving within Dubai From a different curriculum September to mid November
• Moving from outside Dubai – from a different curriculum September to mid November
• Moving within Dubai From the same curriculum September to end January
• Moving from outside Dubai – from the same curriculum September to mid May
If living in Dubai as soon as your child becomes old enough (approx. 2 years of age) start researching and applying to schools. If you are not in Dubai but are negotiating a job offer start applying for schools. Try and avoid rumours “oh you’ll never get into that school” and phone up yourself and talk to the registrar and if you don’t succeed with your first choice go with your second choice you maybe pleasantly surprised!