UAE traffic eases up: Residents appeal to schools to introduce staggered timings

There are many benefits not just for road users but also students as well as parents

by

Angel Tesorero

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Photo: KT file
Photo: KT file

Published: Thu 28 Dec 2023, 6:17 PM

Last updated: Fri 29 Dec 2023, 4:24 PM

Residents and motorists are experiencing lighter traffic nowadays thanks to the holidays. Some are suggesting that schools adopt staggered timings so that traffic will become smoother when classes begin again next week.

A time saving of about 20 per cent is what long-time Dubai resident Ferdinand Fraga has been enjoying the past few days. His work at Dubai Multi Commodities Centre involves being on the road most of the time and the usual choke points for him are areas around schools.

“All school areas are choke points,” he told Khaleej Times, noting: “In the morning and afternoon, parents spend 1-2 minutes dropping off and picking up their kids. But those few minutes can accumulate to longer time periods considering the high volume of vehicles passing by the schools — and this delay affects the adjoining roads, causing heavy traffic.”

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Ferdinand Fraga. Photo: Supplied
Ferdinand Fraga. Photo: Supplied

“When schools are out, there’s no heavy traffic. One solution I think that can be done is to have staggered entry for schools – so students will not come all at the same time and we can reduce the number of cars early morning when everyone else is off to work,” he added.

Less traffic, less stress

It can be done and it has been done. John Bell, founding principal of Bloom World Academy in Al Barsha South, said: “We are the first school in the UAE to offer a 9am start. This ensures families have time in the morning. Less stress. Less traffic. It has been a hugely popular initiative.”

With a belief that education should be dynamic, creative and constantly evolving, Bell added: “We believe this (staggered school entry) is fundamental to rebalancing family life. The early starts mean children are often tired through the day. The early starts mean even earlier starts for teachers – so their well-being, family life and preparation for their teaching day is affected.

John Bell. Photo: Supplied
John Bell. Photo: Supplied

“At Bloom World Academy, we also acknowledge families need and want flexibility – so the school is open from 7am to 7pm – and families can make bespoke decisions about what works for them,” he further explained.

Popular choice

The flexible school timings have proven popular with parents and students alike.

Farrah McLean-Reeks noted: “Bloom World Academy’s later school start has been a game-changer for our daily routine. We have a ‘calmer wake-up routine and the later start allowed our children to prepare their own breakfast and enjoy it at a leisurely pace. Anxiety is avoided as there has been no mad rush to start the day with.”

Her children, Declan and Nikita, added: “We like that school starts later because we can sleep in a bit, and we can have extra time to be ready and organised for the day ahead.”

‘More time with dad’

Not rushing to school means more bonding time between parents and children. Myla, another student at the same school, shared: "I really love the later school start because now I never wake up tired. Previously, I was always waking up tired and sometimes it was really cold when waiting for the bus outside. Now my dad takes me to school every day on his way to work and I love spending more time with him.”

Health benefits

Doctors also prescribe the later start for students. Dr Sanjay Udhani, specialist paediatrician at NMC Medical Centre in Sharjah, said: “Healthy sleep of 8 to 10 hours is crucial for a child’s healthy physical, cognitive and emotional development.”

Dr Sanjay Udhani. Photo: Supplied
Dr Sanjay Udhani. Photo: Supplied

“When students are forced to get up much earlier – around 5.30 am or early in most cases in the UAE as school buses pick them up by 6.30 am or earlier – it has detrimental effects on their overall health, attention span, behaviour and productivity,” he noted.

Dr. Gorika Bansal, paediatrician at Prime Medical Center - Barsha Heights, also said: “Early school start times detrimentally impact young children, leading to sleep deprivation and various issues like diminished focus and daytime drowsiness.

Dr. Gorika Bansal. Photo: Supplied
Dr. Gorika Bansal. Photo: Supplied

“Recognising the biological changes during adolescence, and the requirement of 8-10 hours of sleep, later school start times would be better advocated,” she underscored.

Academic standpoint

Dr. Rommel Sergio, associate dean at School of Management, Canadian University Dubai, however, has a reservation. He said: “From a standpoint of an educator, this is feasible but difficult to implement due to different platforms that the schools/ universities have to prepare. The timelines for admission will not be centralised, making it loose and diverse in approach.

Dr. Rommel Sergio. Photo: Supplied
Dr. Rommel Sergio. Photo: Supplied

But, according to Bell, learning is not compromised as the later start time of 9am (at their school) is supported by an extensive selection of co-curricular activities, including sports, arts and homework club from 8am to 8.45am and from 4pm to 5pm.

“Families are able to design their own bespoke school timings around the official school day of 9am to 4pm, with wraparound care giving the school the opportunity to widen the curriculum as well as supporting parents who are looking for an extended timeframe of childcare support,” he added.

Traffic solution

Going back to proposing a traffic solution, Thomas Edelmann, founder and managing director of RoadSafetyUAE, noted: “School traffic is certainly a major contributor to rush hour traffic. It must be our objective to reduce the number of cars during rush hour.

Thomas Edelmann. Photo: Supplied
Thomas Edelmann. Photo: Supplied

“In the context of the UAE, we believe this can be managed with further pushing and incentivising school bus transportation, proper car pooling schemes, and if possible staggered start and finishing times especially in areas with a high concentration of schools.”

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