9% fee hike by Gems school shocks parents

We would like to award an increase to staff this academic year: Gems COO

The Winchester School in Jebel Ali, which was graded ‘good’, has increased their fees by 9 per cent for the new academic year.

Emirates24|7 was informed about this increase by a parent of the school.

The school circulated a letter to all the parents informing about the mark-up, stating it has been approved by KHDA, following the grading by the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau (DSIB) report.

The mark-up approved by education regulatory authority Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) for ‘good’ schools at 4.5 per cent.

The added percentage is for the additional investment in infrastructure.

An official from the KHDA confirmed that the school has “invested in ITP infrastructure” and which is why the total increase stands at 9 per cent.

“At GEMS Education, we work very hard to ensure that your children get the high quality education that they deserve. With this in mind you will be aware of the significant investment in infrastructure over the past couple of years,” said a letter to parents from William Wellesley, Gems COO.

“For instance, the new extension at Winchester, with state of the art teaching and learning facilities including computers, cost around Dh42 million. This year we would also like to focus on further improving our ICT infrastructure and implementing an enhanced programme of professional development for all of our staff at the school,” he said.

He also mentioned that teacher salaries can be raised. “Staff salaries have been frozen for a while and we would like to award an increase to staff this academic year. With this level of historical and current investment, KHDA recently approved a fee increase of 9 per cent. This increase will be payable for this academic year from September 2012,” he added.

While welcoming an increase in teacher salaries, some parents were, however, shocked. “We had been expecting a 4.5 per cent rise as the school was rated ‘good’. But to be suddenly loaded with double that amount on the first day of the school’s reopening is a shocker,” said a parent. “If Gems had advised us at the end of the term, we could have found another school with a more reasonable fees for our child,” she said.

Earlier this month, the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau (DSIB) report had unveiled its grading for the year 2011-2012, with 11 Dubai schools rated “outstanding”.

As per the guidelines set by KHDA, the fee hike will be determined based on the DSIB grading and the Educational Cost Index (ECI), devised by the Dubai Statistics Centre. Schools that are rated “outstanding” will be allowed 6 per cent increase, while schools marked “good” are allowed 4.5 per cent, and those listed as “satisfactory” and “unsatisfactory” allowed 3 per cent.

The decision of whether to hike or not, the KHDA clarified, remained with the schools.

“Schools may or may not choose to increase fees. This decision lies with the schools themselves. However, once they have chosen to increase fees and apply to KHDA, they can only do so in line with KHDA’s approval,” reported said Mohammed Darwish, Chief of Regulations and Compliance Commission (RCC) of the education regulatory authority Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).

The KHDA framework also directed the schools “to handle all parental input and queries that are connected with the increases that are in line with the fee framework”.

And, this could become an annual exercise, with schools permitted to apply for a fee increase again next year, but only within the criteria set by the KHDA.

The framework elaborated that some schools could even get special KHDA permission to hike more than 6 per cent. And those that will be considered under this bracket are the not-for-profit, embassy and special needs schools and also those investing in infrastructure expansion. The permission, if granted, would mean those schools will have to cap the hike for the next three years.

The fee increase is also disallowed for new schools and will be applicable only after it has clocked three years.

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