Inclusivity in schools has been on the rise in Dubai and much of that is thanks to Vision 2020 and the education goals the ministry has put in place for education in this country. Specifically, the Dubai Inclusive Education Policy Framework (2017) clearly lays out many criteria that all schools must follow such as a certain budgetary allowance for students with special education needs or disabilities (SEND), the qualifications needed for teachers to work with these students, and that students can not be refused entry to any school based on their abilities or disabilities. This document released by KHDA has set a precedent for the future culture of inclusivity that the UAE has towards education.
The goal with these changes is to create inclusive learning environments where all students have an opportunity to achieve success and access curriculum and learning. People of determination are now seen to be intermingling throughout schools across Dubai as part of the whole school population. No longer are SEND students being sent to marginalized schools, classrooms or programs, but function as part of the wider educational population creating an ethos and culture of acceptance and integration allowing every student opportunity for progress and happiness.
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Two new British schools that have taken this initiative to heart are Riverston School in Nad Al Sheba and The Aquila School in Dubailand.
Riverston School is a fully inclusive mainstream school that is set apart by the small community feel established by their cozy campus with maximum class sizes of 16. This is done by their own remarks because with “better levels of expert support, most children can engage with an academic curriculum.” With a strong tie to their sister school in the UK and their parent group in the UK and UAE, Riverston has a long history of success and providing top quality, individualized learning for all students.
The school is marketed for all learners, but is especially well equipped for special needs students. However, every students would receive an individualized learning plan (IEP) and they take an approach that can be described as a one-on-one tutor situation for each learner to be challenged and able to access the curriculum within the class. Furthermore, they have a speech therapist and occupational therapist on-site for students that need this service. They also collaborate with the Riverston Centre in Jumeirah for the screening and assessing of children’s needs. In order to gain entry into the school, a prospective student would have a trial and assessment over three days to make sure they have a perfect fit for the educational environment at Riverston.
Riverston is a well-rounded school with many opportunities to educate the whole-child. They have a strong extra-curricular timetable, and are looking to expand to school trips in the UAE and across the Middle East to support their core curriculum. All of this, and more, goes towards creating what they call a Riverston Learner profile that includes building qualities within the student as cared for, nurtured, encouraged, happy, confident, resilient and ambitious, all needed for their success during their school years and later on.
The Aquila School
Opening its doors this past September, The Aquila School has an expansively impressive campus that will one day house up to 3000 students with class size maximums at 24. This flagship school for the ISP school network believe in strong parent involvement and have many opportunities for parents to be part of the learning experience. They are dedicated to delivering “amazing learning” that embraces individuality aimed at educating the whole-student with a focus on specific passions, with a strong foundation of the core subjects.
At Aquila teachers personalize the learning so students can make connections and grasp the material regardless of their abilities. Students needing challenge, or perhaps extra help to reach grade level, are given opportunity within the curriculum to do so.
Also within Aquila’s campus is the Hemam centre that works alongside Aquila to support students with special needs and disabilities. The Hemam centre specializes in autism, but also has programs for other learning disabilities such as ADD, ADHD, and Dyslexia. These services fall outside of the Aquila fees, but are very conveniently on site at the school.
One of the greatest goals of Vision 2020’s move towards inclusion is to eliminate the stigma that is associated with people of determination or those with learning disabilities, to foster a culture of inclusion, acceptance and an environment that every person, regardless of their status, can thrive. This is just one more way the UAE is planning for our children’s future.