Back to School 2021

What parents and teachers need to know as children go back to school in the UAE today


After a long summer away from home, many teachers, parents and children have returned to the UAE eager to start the new school year.

But with the ongoing pandemic, many precautionary measures will still be in place, meaning rules will have to be followed to return to normal life safely.

Returning to the UAE – PCR tests

  • Children under the age of 12 are not required to show a negative PCR test on arrival in either Abu Dhabi or Dubai.
  • But many of the rules regarding PCR tests depend on the departure requirements of the country you are leaving, so check with IATA or your airline for the latest details at least 72 hours before your flight.
  • Plan ahead because PCR test results may take time to come through.

Back to school in Abu Dhabi

  • Only vaccinated people are allowed to enter public and private schools, nurseries and universities in Abu Dhabi from August 20.
  • The decision does not apply to those with a vaccination exemption registered on Al Hosn app, nor to children aged 15 and under.
  • This means that by the start of the new school term, all school staff and children aged 16 and over must have had both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. On August 2, officials said the decision would extend to children across the UAE, with the exception of Dubai.

At present, private schools in Abu Dhabi are waiting for updates from the authorities on testing policies for children and staff who have travelled outside the Emirates during the summer holidays.

In 2020, all pupils over the age of 12 had to be tested for Covid-19 before they could return to in-person classes in Abu Dhabi.

Also pupils who had travelled outside the UAE during summer holidays were asked to plan their return at least two weeks before the beginning of the new academic year, to meet any requirements of quarantine or Covid-19 required by the UAE Government.

These rules may change for the autumn term of 2021, as thousands of pupils over the age of 12 in the UAE have received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Back to school for Dubai pupils

  • All pupils must declare their recent travel history by completing the Dubai Health Authority form online. The schools will keep these declarations on file.
  • Pupils who have returned from travel abroad also require a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours to resume learning at school.
  • If they do not have a negative test result, they will be required to do distance learning for 10 days from their arrival date.
  • Pupils who want to resume on-site learning without completing their 10-day quarantine can produce a negative PCR test at any time.
  • In Dubai, authorities do not yet require pupils to have been vaccinated to attend school.

Back to school for Dubai teachers

All school staff who have returned from travel abroad require a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours to resume working at school for the new academic year.

They must also declare their recent travel history by completing the DHA form online.

Staff who have undergone a Covid-19 test in Dubai on or after August 20 will be exempt from additional testing and have to present a copy of the results to the school.

During the autumn term, school staff who are eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine but choose not to be vaccinated must take a PCR test every seven days, whether they are working remotely or face-to-face.

This applies to all private education institutions in Dubai, including early learning centres, schools, universities and training institutes.

However, this is not necessary during the holidays, according to the KHDA website.

Back to nursery in Dubai

  • Dubai nurseries have similar rules to schools in that pupils who have returned from travel abroad need to fill in the DHA travel form.
  • They also require a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours to go back to nursery.
  • Alternatively, they could quarantine for 10 days, although some nurseries choose to extend the quarantine to 14 days.
  • Furthermore, if the child stays home, but his or her parent or sibling travel internationally, then the child is required to quarantine for 10 days.
  • If the household member can show a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours, then the child can attend nursery without quarantining.

Back to school for Sharjah pupils

The Covid-19 rules in Sharjah have not changed since last term, but the emirate’s private education authority said that precautionary measures issued last year are being revised with the relevant authorities.

Last term, all educational staff and pupils over the age of 12 were required to take a PCR test before returning to school.

Self-isolation is not currently required for pupils or staff, but some private schools have acted independently and asked their teachers to return to the country two weeks before reopening, in case quarantine rules are made mandatory again.

Mother of two Nora Abdelhameed said she was aware the rules could be updated, and has adjusted her plans accordingly.

“I’m flying to Egypt with my children for a holiday, but I have decided to return in mid August in case any changes are made to the Covid-19 rules for schools,” she said.

Her children will go into grades 3 and 12 next term.

Source: The National