When Should Your Little People Start Big School?
There has been a great deal of confusion lately about when children should start school, it’s been heavily debated around Dubai and as a Nursery Principal I have spoken to anxious parents as they try understand what’s best for their child. The UAE is quite rare in the way schools open their doors to children who are only three and in some cases children are starting FS1 as early as Two and half (if they turn three before December 31st). If I am honest I am not sure why this is happening and I wonder who will benefit from children having an earlier start to formal schooling now. However, parents do have a choice when they send their child to “Big School”, it’s just a new option…
I think some of the anxiety for parents is the fear of not having a place and the imagined picture of their child not being accepted is just too much… I wonder if they imagine themselves stuck at the supermarket on a school day with a school less child. I am not sure that’s the case, I am frequently contacted by schools asking me to give their brochures to my nursery parents. If there were not any spaces available at schools why are they promoting their schools on billboards, magazines and on the radio? There are so many truly fantastic schools here in Dubai, I feel confident everyone will get a place. I think this worry is placing unnecessary pressure on our children and families.
I am concerned that some children will leave nurseries in Dubai this year too soon. When children are between 2-4 years old magic happens… language develops and personalities emerge as they grow in confidence, feel happy and secure in the world. Early Education in nurseries is all about relationships and attachments, and the stronger those are; the more children learn in my experience which is why I spend most of my day building relationships with the children and families in our nursery. The more the children settle, the more language and overall development we see. I worry that just as these skills emerge we are uprooting the children to a formal setting and those wonderful life skills could shrink back for a little while.
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Another concern is the pastoral needs of the children. The children in our nursery like many others in Dubai receive a great deal of individual care, we know everything about them and quite honestly we adore them all. They are supported, cared for and loved. We help them develop personal skills like toileting and eating and we help working families by caring for them from 7.00 am to 6.00pm daily. So many young children need help to overcome shyness, make friends, learn to share etc, all this is done in nurturing specialist early years settings with strong pedagogical approaches. In our nursery we teach the same EYFS curriculums as schools it’s just done “nursery style” with a great deal of fun, mess and personal attention. We are lucky to have small groups and lots of staff.
I understand the school run is tough going in Dubai and the thought of only doing one when you have siblings to consider is very appealing. I understand you may be fearful of not getting a space at your preferred school. I understand it’s hard when other Mums ask you where your child will go to school and you don’t have an answer. It’s not easy.
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What I do know though without question is that all children are different and they develop at different stages and pace. I’m sure schools who choose to accept these very young children into their Foundation units will do their best, but I can’t help but feel sad that nursery life will finish earlier now for some children in the UAE.
All the best whatever you choose.