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School 'eviction' letter stuns Dubai parents.

A group of 90 students of the GEMS Winchester School in Dubai are being asked to leave school in a bizarre turn of events.

In a letter sent to parents on May 22, the school's principal, Lee Davies, informed parents of the school's failure to secure approvals from education authorities to continue offering Grade 10 classes.

Surprisingly, the school had earlier pushed parents to pay a re-enrolment fee (Dh900) for Grade 10 -- without having received approvals from regulatory authorities.

"Our application to open grade 10 was denied. It was an unexpected occurrence that caught us by surprise," said a spokesperson from GEMS Education.

The school, operated by GEMS Education, is now helping parents to secure admissions in other schools run by the group.

"Our main priority is of course to work with you to help you find new seats at schools in the area. Most immediately, students in Year 9 will have priority to enrol in Westminster, Sharjah," read the letter sent by the principal to parents.

Interestingly, the Westminster School in Sharjah also doesn't have the necessary approvals at the moment, and GEMS said it was expecting permits "in the coming weeks".

According to a senior official at Dubai's Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), the school applied for permission to introduce a year 10 class to accommodate students passing out from Grade 9. However, since the school has been rated only 'acceptable' by the KHDA, it has not been allowed to expand.

Mohammed Darwish, Chief of Regulations and Permits Commission at the KHDA, said, "Schools wishing to expand must be rated at least 'Good' by Dubai School Inspection Bureau (DSIB)."

"The KHDA will consider approving the addition of the next grades only after the school's performance has improved. Based on the above, we encourage parents to look at other options for grade 10," added Darwish.

Parents have been left in the lurch by the last-minute announcement, and they question the school's intention and allege that the entire episode is being staged to help 'business at other schools improve'.

"Why is everything kept to the last minute and why were we asked to pay re-enrolment fees when the school itself was not sure about offering classes? It just looks like the school wants to improve business at its other schools," said R.T., a parent affected by the announcement.

Several parents confirmed paying an additional Dh500 as a non-refundable registration fee at the time of admission in other GEMS schools. A spokesperson from GEMS Education confirmed the fee would be refunded if the student did not secure an admission at a GEMS schools.

Another parent who did not wish to be named said: "It is very difficult to find an admission since most of other schools have already closed admissions. We have been promised priority in the school's Jebel Ali branch and by the end of this week, I hope there will be more clarity on the future of our kids."

The GEMS Winchester School opened in 2011, at the site of the old Our Own English School in Oud Metha. The school follows the National Curriculum for England and currently provides places from Foundation Stage 1 to Year 9.

On the school website, it is mentioned: "Each year this will continue to grow to finally include year 11 and enable students to successfully complete UK IGCSE examinations."

Grade 9 students at the school are currently writing their year-end examinations with the last exam scheduled for June 5.

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Publication:Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:May 26, 2014
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