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Friday, September 17, 2021

Parents frustrated as many schools told to change mid-term breaks

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Many parents are expressing concern this week after being informed of last-minute changes to their children’s school holiday schedule.

The revisions involve planned mid-semester breaks in February 2014, and have been made at the order of the Supreme Education Council, which is working to harmonize the school calendar across Qatar.

The usual Spring Term break, generally scheduled for late February, must now come in line with the new two-week holiday for independent schools, which runs from Jan. 26 to Feb. 6, according to announcements made by several schools this week.

The affected schools include Newton International schools, Sherborne Qatar, International School of London (ISL), Park House, ACS, SEK, and Doha British School (DBS).

In an email to parents, DBS headmaster Terry McGuire said:

“This is a directive and we have to abide by it. I have appealed at the highest level and, in fact, had a meeting with the Director for Private Education. He was adamant that the school follows the dates set by the Ministry and that we reschedule our mid-term break.”

Despite this general ruling, some schools are being allowed to keep their existing term dates, due to their status as embassy-supported establishments. These include the American School of Doha (ASD), Doha College and DESS.

In an email to parents in October, Doha College Headmaster Mark Leppard wrote:

“As community schools, sponsored by the British Embassy, we do not have to follow these requirements. This is particularly important as we have some UK examinations  and tests that would clash with the proposed SEC dates.”

Additionally, it appears that Indian schools, which begin their academic year in April, and Filipino schools, which begin their year in June, are unaffected. The Ideal Indian School and the Philippine School Doha confirmed to Doha News that there would be no change to their schedules.

What happened

In September, the Cabinet approved the SEC’s plan to add a new holiday for government-run schools. An official release from the Qatar News Agency explained the move:

“The introduction of second mid-term holidays at schools is in line with the efforts to make their calendar compatible with the Qatar University’s second semester holidays. The move brings the beginning and end of the academic year of the Qatar University and schools as closer as possible. “

This shift to term dates is just the latest in a string of adjustments made by the SEC, who have previously announced a unified summer holiday for all schools, both public and private, and a last-minute amendment to Eid holidays, also affecting all school sectors.

Aware of the possibility of a date change, some schools have chosen to keep their calendars fluid.

Christopher Charleson, head of ISL, told parents in an email this week that he was “delighted” to inform parents that the school had received final approval from the SEC for its annual calendar, adding that the February half term dates would now change.

Meanwhile, ACS has taken a different approach, keeping its existing half-term from Feb. 16 to 20, but also adding a second week from Jan. 26 to Jan. 30.

Reaction

The sudden changes have sparked frustration and complaints about additional cost from many parents, who in many cases have already booked holidays for the half-term break.

Susie, mother of a child attending Spanish international school SEK, told Doha News that she still plans to take her child on vacation, despite the change:

“We waited until a few weeks ago to make reservations to see if the calendar was going to change. We plan to still go, and thus our son will be absent that week from school. Otherwise, it would cost us another several thousand dollars to make new flights and hotel reservations.”

Tessa, a parent of a pupil at ISL, said the SEC – and not schools – were to blame for the problems caused by the shift:

“They (schools) have cautioned the parents repeatedly and have been completely upfront,” she says. “I do however think the SEC needs to determine dates, holidays etc. for a new school year well in advance. With so many people from all over the world, each with their own celebrations, you just cannot wait until the school year is two months old before you determine the holiday dates.”

Other parents told Doha News that they were concerned about the disjointed nature of the new school term, the second half of which will now be nine weeks long, after a first half lasting only four weeks.

The SEC has not yet responded to our request for comment.

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