Interactive workshops, trip to UK: Here's how Abu Dhabi's new initiative will help 3,000 students lead healthier lives

The programme aims to highlight the importance of play and its pivotal role in the cognitive and behavioural development of young children


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Published: Wed 28 Sep 2022, 3:16 PM

Last updated: Wed 28 Sep 2022, 3:19 PM

After a successful pilot programme last academic year, Abu Dhabi’s Early Childhood Authority (ECA) and Manchester City Football Schools UAE have extended their partnership to kick-off the ‘Healthy Lifestyles’ programme.

The initiative will target up to 3,000 primary school students aged 4-8 years across 40 schools in Abu Dhabi – a 260 per cent increase compared to the pilot run.

An exciting competition has also been announced, giving two children and their parents a chance to score a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, UK and celebrate in the stands during one of Manchester City's key games this season.

The ‘Healthy Lifestyles’ programme is an integral part of ECA’s World Early Childhood Development (WED) Movement – a platform launched in 2021 under the patronage of Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority.

The WED Movement focuses on parents, children, partners, policymakers, civil societies, research entities, social investment funds and innovation centres, as well as the private sector, through strategic interventions and tailored programmes that promote and develop the early childhood sector – locally and globally.

As part of this, the ‘Healthy Lifestyles’ programme highlights the importance of play and its pivotal role in the cognitive, physical and behavioural development of young children. The programme is built on the philosophy and vision of the Manchester City FC Academy training programme, and is in line with the values and culture of the local community.

Interactive workshops

The series of interactive workshops, which will run throughout the academic year, focuses on educating children on the importance of leading a healthy and active lifestyle, while encouraging them to build healthy habits such as taking part in football and sports.

This year’s programme was launched at The Pearl Academy in Abu Dhabi, where 15 boys and 11 girls between the ages of 7-8 were put through the paces. Led by specially-trained Manchester City Football Schools coaches, the workshops consist of two lessons – one theory and one practical – that teach children the importance of being active, eating well and leading a healthy lifestyle. These are all key priorities of the WED Movement.

The launch of the workshops concluded with a bang, revealing the new inaugural 'Healthy Hero of the Year' competition. The exciting contest will see the partner schools taking part in the nomination of two ‘Healthy Heroes’ – one boy and one girl – who have gone above and beyond to lead a healthier lifestyle throughout the school year, both personally and as a role model to their peers.

Nominations will be submitted in May 2023, with two winners selected at random on May 28 – which is also World Play Day. The competition will give winners an unmatched experience consisting of flights, accommodation, match tickets to a 2023/24 English Premier League home game, and a behind the scenes tour of the iconic Etihad Stadium.

Manal Taher, Head of the Strategic Partnerships Department at the Authority, said: “After last year’s successful pilot, we are excited to see this partnership roll-out on a far more grand scale for the new academic year. This is something both schools and the children were hungry for, and we are pleased to be able to deliver the best results for all participating children. We believe every young child should be healthy, confident, curious, and able to learn and develop strong values in a safe and supportive family environment in Abu Dhabi.

This programme is a great way to spread that play-centric mandate, and encourage our young children and their families to adopt healthy lifestyles that promote their growth and development."

Simon Hewitt, Senior Manager, Football Operations MENA – Football Education, City Football Services, said: “This year, we are expanding the reach of our Healthy Lifestyles Programme designed for younger, primary school kids. It is never too early to talk about the benefits of sport, nutrition and healthy choices, and we are delighted to conduct these interactive sessions face-to-face, and in-classroom again."

Joey Marcroft, Head of PE at The Pearl Academy, added: “The kids have greatly benefited from the in-person workshop. After a long, hot summer, and almost two years of online learning, they loved letting off steam and learning life lessons and football skills from such renowned coaches, and ultimately enjoying having some good old-fashioned fun together.

The launch of the Healthy Hero competition went down really well too, and I believe it will go a long way in encouraging children to participate in more healthy living activities, and lead by example for their classmates. I am excited for them.”

Participants wishing to register in this year’s programme may reach out via email on


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