Officials from schools in the UAE have hit back at allegations by parents that the Dhs500 registration fees are for “nothing”.

“The money goes into the processing of the applications – which means we are getting a team to look at them, we are communicating with parents who are coming in, we are advising them – so it’s not just the piece of paper we are charging for,” explained Saleha Khateeb, registrar at Horizon School in Dubai.

The declaration came at the ‘Education in the UAE’ event organised by website souqalmal.com, which provides a comparison of fees and admissions information for nurseries and schools.

Khateeb added: “Before we take the application form, we have a service that we provide every parent who enquires about our school.”

“We have the headteacher giving you a tour, taking you around for an hour-and-a-half, explaining the school’s philosophy, showing you classrooms, and then giving you an indication of what our waiting list looks like,” she added, underlining that the school did not charge for any of the mentioned services.

The registrar also said that if schools did not charge the application fee, parents would likely put in applications even if they weren’t interested in a securing a place, which would result in a hike in administration costs.

Headteacher at Jebel Ali Primary School, Jonathan Price said: “We also go along to the nursery where the child is and observe, to ease the assessment process for the parent and child. I have four members of staff who go on nursery visits and then I go through all the paperwork. That’s what your Dhs500 pays for in our school.”

Meanwhile, founder and CEO of souqalmal.com, Ambareen Musa called for all schools to publish their waiting lists online and follow a uniform admissions process.

She set up the website after experiencing difficulties in registering her child at schools. She was told by some institutes they had no spots available until 2017. Musa said: “One school said to me, ‘what were you doing when you were pregnant?’, which is what got me to start putting this information on my website.”

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