20200722 adek
Photo for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi’s Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek) announced a gradual return to in-classroom learning starting January 24, Monday, for private and charter school students. Here’s what you need to know:

Which students can return to school on Monday?

Students in the following classes can return to face-to-face learning:

  • G 1 – Grade 5
  • FS1 – Year 6
  • Students who are studying for international exams

Is anyone exempt?

Yes. Distance learning will remain optional to those who choose it – this remains an option for the rest of term one. Parents must inform the school of their preference by January 31. The chosen model will be valid for the remainder of the term.

School activities – what’s allowed and what’s not?


  • Sports
  • Cultural activities

Not allowed:

  • All external school trips
  • All external school activities

When do schools return to face-to-face learning completely?

For those choosing the in-classroom model, January 31.

PCR protocols:

If you have travelled in the two weeks preceding in-person school, you need:

  • A travel declaration form
  • Negative PCR test results taken on the first and sixth day of your return to UAE.

If you are a visitor to the school, you need:

  • Green status on Alhosn App with a negative test result, which is valid for 96 hours

If you are a student, teacher or staff member, you need:

  • A 96-hour negative PCR test result before returning to campus.

Is anyone exempt from testing?

No. All private and charter school students over the age of three - regardless of vaccination status and inclusive of Students of Determination - must produce a negative nasal PCR or saliva test result valid for 96 hours before resuming in-person classes.

The rule applies to teachers, administrative staff and third-party contractors.

How much does a PCR test cost for students?

Nothing. It’s free. Abu Dhabi students can take free-of-charge PCR tests at any private or public clinic, hospital, or drive-through test center without the need to present a designated school code.

To accommodate various start dates of the new term, the student testing service will be available until January 31. Adek advises all students physically returning to school on January 24th to take tests between January 20-22 to ensure valid test results for the first day of school.

What documents does the child need then?

A valid Emirates ID


A valid passport

For students under 12

Students under the age of 12 can opt for a saliva test at a variety of test centers across Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, and Al Dhafra. Here’s a list:

Centres for COVID-19 testing
Image Credit: Adek
Centres for COVID-19 texting
Image Credit: Adek
Centres for COVID-19 texting
Image Credit: Adek
Centres for COVID-19 texting
Image Credit: Adek

For teachers and staff members

Abu Dhabi teachers and administrative staff can also receive free-of-charge back-to-school PCR tests at designated centers. A list of centers and school codes has been shared with schools.

Routine PCR tests

In line with the goal of keeping screening for COVID-19 a priority, PCR routine tests will be needed for the following categories:

  • All students aged below 16 (vaccinated and non-vaccinated)
  • All students aged 16 and above (vaccinated and exempted)

Is vaccination mandatory to attend school?

In 2021, Abu Dhabi made UAE-approved COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for those aged 16 and over and wanting to attend school.

For those aged 3-15, vaccination is not a pre-requisite to face-to-face learning.

Are there any exceptions to the 16+ rule?

Yes. The following are exempt from being vaccinated:

  • Active COVID-19 patients
  • Participants in vaccine clinical trials
  • Pregnant women
  • Recipients of vaccine outside following medical evaluation
  • Former COVID-19 Patients following medical evaluation
  • Those who have previously had serve allergies to vaccines or component of vaccines
  • Those who have diseases that may be incompatible with vaccine following medical evaluation

What other precautions are in place at schools?

There are a number of preventive measures as well as in case of infection, protective ones. These include:

Physical distancing: A distance of 1.5 metre to be maintained at all times.

Mask wearing: Children are expected to wear a mask throughout the day

Student groups: The school will be grouped into macro bubbles or classes.

In case of classes:

Students to observe one-metre physical distance from one another

Students per class:

  • 25 in a KG class
  • 30 in Grade 1/Year 2-Grade 12/13

In case of bubbles:

These are only allowed for students in KG, Grade1/Year 2 and Grade 2/Year 3.

Maximum number of students: 16 in a classroom


2 bubbles each with 10 students to share a classroom under certain conditions.

What is a bubble?
A bubble is a small group of students who do not have to observe physical distancing from each other but are isolated from other student bubbles. A macrobubble is a group of students and staff that is physically isolated from other groups during a school day.

Moving to distance learning in case of a COVID-19 case: A section or more of a school may move to the distance-learning module.

  • If there are two or more positive cases in a class or bubble – the class or bubble will be shifted to distance learning mode.
  • If 4 classes are shifted to distance learning and/or 8 cases are detected in a macrobubble – the macrobubble will be shifted to online learning.
  • If 3 macrobubbles are shifted to distance learning and/or there are 24 cases in a school – the school will move to distance learning mode.