Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) guidance update as of 23.3.20
23rd March 2020

This week’s Covid-19 communication covers:

  1. New update as of 23.3.20
  2. Link to previous advice.

As ever the update is issued by BSA in conjunction with our partners BAISIS and ISC. BSA reminds all schools that it is not a medical, statutory or legal authority and any advice is given on that basis. ISC, supported by ISBA, will be issuing guidance to schools soon relating to financial, staffing and examination issues, so this BSA briefing will concentrate mainly on matters relating to boarding.

A.1: What has changed
This time last week the UK was contemplating 1500 cases and 50 deaths. Those figures had risen by yesterday (March 22) to 5683 and 281.

Schools have now closed in all parts of the United Kingdom, except for the children of key workers, and those boarders who cannot get home. The Government has made it clear that all boarding and independent schools are expected to contribute fully to the UK response. 19 schools which contacted BSA at the end of last week still had 465 international boarders or 13% of their total boarders. Although we realise the number of international boarders will reduce as students manage to fly home, BSA has shared this data with the DfE as a snapshot of the sector.

With schools having closed on Friday to the majority of pupils, there have been many new documents, statements and pieces of guidance over the weekend, however the most significant is the statement tweeted by the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson MP, which has been echoed by officials in the devolved administrations:

“You should only send your child to school on Monday if you have to, because your work is critical to our COVID-19 response. If you are able to keep your child at home, you should.” @GavinWilliamson

BSA reminds schools in England that there is a dedicated DfE helpline for questions about COVID-19 that aren't covered in its guidance: 0800 046 8687 (Opening hours: 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday).

A.2: Key principles for boarding schools
For boarding schools, the key secondary principle is that they are able to remain open both for children of key workers and for any boarders who have been unable to get home. This was confirmed last Wednesday in a conversation between BSA and Schools’ Minister Baroness Berridge, who said that the Government would welcome boarding school support for delivery of services for key worker children/vulnerable children. This is further clarified in the guidance documents below. Baroness Berridge was also grateful for any ongoing partnership work between the independent and state sector.

Both BSA and ISC, supported by Andrew Lewer MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Independent Education, have lobbied consistently on behalf of member schools, and the issues concerned were raised last week in both Houses of Parliament. 
Furthermore SCIS continues to engage proactively with the Scottish Government, WISC in Wales, and BSA on behalf of state boarding schools. Baroness Berridge confirmed that the government would clarify financial arrangements for state boarding schools which faced unapproved budget deficits through the loss of boarding fees. ISBA, on behalf of ISC, is coordinating responses on financial matters on behalf of independent members, but BSA has also written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer calling for urgent support ALL for boarding schools to ensure they remain viable.

A.3: New guidance
BSA has asked consistently for guidance around the issue of self-isolation if a member of the boarding community should fall ill. BSA advised that, in the absence of further information, each boarding unit should be considered to be a household, and this is now supported by official advice, available here.

In accordance with the guidance document issued by DfE, all English schools are expected to report daily attendance figures to DfE. This includes independent schools. The below document contains a spreadsheet for this purpose. Boarding schools are asked to add an extra column to indicate those boarders who are in school because they cannot get home.

The UK Government has also issued the following

The Scottish Government issued the following:

The Welsh Government advice is below:

Penningtons Manches Cooper has produced the following guidance for independent schools which have been forced to close:

A.4: Wellbeing
Last week BSA organised a webinar on Coronavirus and Wellbeing, presented by Ruth Hughes, a positive psychology coach with 25 years' experience in leadership roles in education and NGOs. This was very well received and is now available to download for a small administrative charge of £20. To request a copy of the webinar, please email Janki.

Following the success and interest in last week's webinar, BSA has organised Preventing a social-emotional pandemic, being hosted by Chris Thurber, a clinic psychologist working in education. This webinar is running from 2pm until 3pm on Wednesday, March 25th. To learn more and book your place, click here.

Andrew Hall of “Safeguarding in Schools” last week issued some guidance on teaching pupils remotely and on looking after vulnerable pupils during school closures. Whilst aimed at all schools, the principles remain relevant for boarding schools. The guidance is available here.

ISC Digital Strategy Group has issued a joint COVID-19 bulletin with advice and practical steps for school leaders. Please click here to view

A.5: Staff arrangements
Schools which employ qualified nurses will find in coming days that these nurses might be approached to contribute to the wider healthcare response, and indeed some have already been called. Schools concerned should have appropriate professional conversations with their nursing staff, and BSA hopes that all schools will be as supportive as possible at this time of national emergency.

As last week, many schools are quite rightly very concerned about how to staff any provision, especially if some of those staff themselves become ill. It is right to start from a position of asking for volunteers (which many schools have done successfully), but this might not always be sufficient. ISC has raised this with DfE, and Harrison Clark Rickerbys has produced a briefing note for ISBA which is available here

ISBA member schools can contact them for guidance regarding the implications of staffing the school over Easter and beyond. Contact their COO, John Murphie directly.

Although this situation is challenging and upsetting for all staff, schools should be particularly mindful of supporting GAP assistants and equivalent, most of whom are not much older than our boarders, and are a very long way from home. 

A.6: Inquiries
The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry confirmed last week that they would postpone their inquiry into residential schools. The IICSA inquiry has cancelled some forthcoming hearings, but has not yet made any statement about the residential schools hearing which is scheduled to commence on May 11.

A.7: BSA
BSA has taken the decision to close the BSA office in Central London and all staff are working remotely. Normal services are being maintained wherever possible. Delegates for BSA seminars, courses and conferences will receive information soon relating to events which have been cancelled or postponed. We are aware that staff still need information and support at this time and as such are running an increased webinar schedule. For information on this, and topics coming up, click here or visit our events page.

B. Links to previous BSA advice


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