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Coronavirus and British boarding schools - a few tips on the current situation

Since this blog was written in Feb 2020 there have been significant changes to the situation in the UK and globally — For updated information see links below to WHO and PHE

Most boarding schools appear to be following the advice from both the Boarding Schools Association (BSA), World Health Organisation (WHO) and Public Health England (PHE) to ensure they are able to circulate sensible and unbiased information to any parents or guardians who may be worried. It is understandable that their first priority is always to ensure the health and wellbeing of their whole school community, including pupils and staff.

A few tips regarding the current situation in the UK

Based on the current evidence from the WHO and PHE, there is no immediate cause for concern and there are no reported cases in the UK (as of 29/01/20). UPDATE 31/01/2020 there are now 2 confirmed cases in the UK, schools are following advice and some are cancelling all but essential visits/travel. Students who do travel may be quarantined on their return.

However, many boarding schools have taken the following precautions:

  • Advising pupils to stay in the UK for the half term break in February, particularly those international children who live in affected areas overseas. Some schools are insisting children from affected areas do not return home.

  • Those who choose to return home, may find their boarding schools are not able to accommodate their return to school after half term, depending on the Global situation of the virus and the advice they receive from the BSA and PHE at that time. A half-term stay with a UK family member or guardian would be a much safer approach.

  • Cancelling scheduled visit appointments for prospective families. For the moment, this appears to be until half term in Mid-February, to be reviewed later. If you have a new parent school visit appointment booked, it is well worth checking with the school to ask for their policy on visitors to the school at the current time.

  • Advising international parents with children studying in boarding schools to ensure their UK-based guardian is prepared, should an emergency stay be needed for their child.

The latest update on the Coronavirus from the National Health Service (NHS) can be found here:

The latest update from Public Health England (PHE) can be found here:

Update 13th February 2020 Since the Global situation surrounding Coronavirus appears to be escalating, the advice to parents with children currently studying in British boarding schools has been updated. As a result, many children are now faced with putting arrangements in place to spend both the half term and Easter breaks in the UK. Though hugely disappointing for parents overseas, who are very much looking forward to seeing their children, it’s hard to argue against the social responsibility we all carry, to try to halt the spread of this highly contagious illness. Schools have an obligation to minimise any risk to their whole community, both staff and pupils. This must remain their number one priority.

From communications we have received, schools appear to be following the advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Boarding School’s Association (BSA) and the Medical Officers of Schools Association (MOSA).

Current UK Government guidance is to avoid travel to China, as well as other countries which have extensive travel links with China such as Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Macau. Those who have recently travelled to, or come to the UK from these countries, are advised to self-isolate and seek medical help immediately if they have any flu-like symptoms such as a fever, headache or sore-throat.

Areas of high risk are currently defined as China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Areas of elevated risk are currently Singapore, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia and Macau.

Many boarding schools are implementing the precautions below:

  • Boarding pupils who decide to fly to areas of high risk at either half term or Easter will be required to carry out a UK-based self-isolation period of 14 days prior to returning to school for the second half of the Spring term or the start of the Summer term respectively.

  • Those children who spend time in the company of parents or other relatives who have flown in from an area of high risk at either half term or Easter will be required to carry out a UK-based self-isolation period of 14 days, prior to returning to school for the second half of the Spring term or the start of the Summer term respectively.

  • As the Easter holiday period is longer than 14 days, the length of the holiday may well comply with the self-isolation criteria. It is best to check this with your child’ school.

  • Those children who are starting at a boarding school as a new pupil from the Summer term in April, from areas of high risk, will be required to carry out a UK-based self-isolation period of 14 days prior to returning to school.

In all the above instances, the precautions well may be the same for those parents and children from areas deemed to be of elevated risk, depending on the individual school. Our advice is to check with your child’s school.

Most schools now appear to be cancelling visit appointments for children and their parents until at the very earliest the Summer term.

Making lemonade out of lemons

Though our thoughts are very much with international parents and children, who may well not be able to see one another during the Easter break, there are lots of opportunities to use this time wisely, to support your child’s education. If they must stay in the UK, it provides an opportunity to help them to address any curriculum areas they might be struggling with, or to just give them some all-round support. For those facing up-coming pre-tests and interviews for their senior school applications, why not arrange some NVR or VR tuition or some practise interview sessions to build confidence?

For example, they could attend a residential Easter course in the UK, to help give focus to their GCSE or A level revision. Or they could have some one-to-one tuition with an expert tutor, while staying at their UK-based guardian. This can very feasibly and successfully be delivered by Skype to any location.

We can provide a listening ear and are here to help you, to make the best of an unpleasant situation.

Please give us a call or email us and we will be very happy to advise you on the right Easter courses or help you to arrange for specialist tutors, as appropriate for the individual needs of your child.

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