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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) guidance update as of 18.05.20
18th May 2020

This week’s Covid-19 communication covers:

  1. New update as of 18.05.20
  2. Links 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.


A.1: What has changed
The last week has seen a further easing of lockdown measures in many countries, a return to school in some, and also a limited return to boarding. UNESCO has a useful overview of which countries have reopened schools with a “school closure” monitor. This indicates that some 30% of the world’s children now have some access to school, but with countrywide closures still in 156 countries.

Individual Governments have been issuing guidance to their schools regarding reopening, but UNESCO has also produced a Framework for Reopening Schools. Although this is aimed at Governments and education departments, it still makes interesting reading.

WHO now lists 4.5 million confirmed cases, an increase of half a million since last week, with 307,395 reported deaths, compared to  274,361. In the UK, 34,636 people have now died compared to 31,855 the previous week. The thoughts of the BSA team continue to be with all those who have lost loved ones or friends as a result of the pandemic.

A.2: Reopening schools in the UK
Despite concern and opposition from some quarters, the Government continues to target June 1 as a date for Reception, Year 1, and Year 6 to return to school. Guidance was issued last week which describes the steps which should be taken by schools in preparation. Although targeted at primary, the guidance is a useful marker of the kinds of decisions which will need to be taken by all schools in due course, and BSA advises all school leaders to read the PLANNING GUIDE.

No further guidance has been issued relating to other year groups, although it is intended that years 10 and 12 should have some time in school this term.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have made it clear that they do not see June 1st as a realistic date for reopening schools. Northern Ireland published a five stage plan last Tuesday, which has a limited reopening of schools at stage three, though with no indicative timescale as yet. Wales published further guidance of the next steps on Friday. The Scottish Government also has guidance on looking beyond lockdown, click here to view thisSCIS has a webpage full of links and advice for schools in Scotland.  Other parts of the British Isles and Channel Islands have also issued guidance: Isle of ManJerseyGuernsey

A3: Reopening boarding in the UK
BSA acknowledges that many schools remain open for vulnerable children and the children of key workers. The first group of schools who need to evaluate a more mainstream return to boarding are those schools with boarders in Year 6. Some of these schools are making plans to readmit boarders, others are more cautious. Much will depend on the layout of the buildings, the nature of the cohort, and the blend of full, weekly and flexi boarders. BSA and IAPS are working together to provide clear guidance on this issue, but have not yet been able to make a definitive statement, as information from DfE specifically related to boarding is yet to appear, despite both associations having asked for it. The advice of both BSA and IAPS therefore is for schools to use the existing documentation in order to complete a comprehensive risk assessment of the issues relating to reopening boarding.  These documents are:

The existing guidance on how to deal with a suspected case of COVID in a residential setting remains in place and will be relevant after reopening too: ISOLATION PROCEDURES.

The BSA CHECKLIST FOR REOPENING BOARDING has been updated today to reference some of the most recent changes and additions to policy and guidance.

There is, as yet, no clear indication of when other groups will be invited back, but BSA will monitor the situation and liaise with schools as soon as any guidance is issued.

All of the ISC associations are clear in their advice that, other than for children of key workers and those designated vulnerable, schools must only allow back children in those year groups designated by the Government.

BSA, SCIS, and WISC continue to monitor the situation in other parts of the UK.

A4: BSA COVID-SAFE CHARTER
BSA is acutely aware that the profile of the UK and its COVID-19 response is a matter of great concern for both current and prospective parents of international students.  Agents report that conflicting messages from schools are also damaging the perception of UK boarding schools in the eyes of those parents and children. As the UK moves towards a potential wider opening for all year groups in September, we are establishing the BSA COVID-SAFE CHARTER. 

This will be a series of steps schools will guarantee to take in advance of reopening, which will aim to reassure agents, parents and children that they have taken all reasonable measures to ensure their safety. This initiative is, of course, voluntary for schools, but is intended to be a strong statement that schools take the needs of their international students very seriously. BSA is not currently in a position to publish this Charter as much depends on remaining guidance from Government, particularly around the key issue of quarantine. It will, however, be published as soon as possible.  In the meantime, BSA asks schools to be very clear in their messaging around the following issues:

  • Although schools are, and should be, making preparations for potentially quarantining international arrivals in advance of the September term, schools must not confirm such arrangements until the relevant guidance has been issued by the UK Government. International parents and agents are well aware that quarantine guidance has not yet been issued.
  • Schools must allow children to wear masks/ face coverings if they wish to, although they must not be required to, and should be advised not to when taking exercise.

Advice from previous weeks relating to Tier 4 remains valid: Schools are reminded to be mindful of Tier 4 considerations when planning for both current pupils and new arrivals. The latest guidance (update as of  April 20) can be found here. In particular, member schools are reminded that new immigration arrangements will apply to new arrivals from Europe who enter the country on or after January 1, 2021.

Please continue to contact bsa@boarding.org.uk with any particular thoughts and viewpoints you feel need to be considered, and these can then be reflected in our checklist and in conversations with Ministers and other Government officials.

A.5: Reopening boarding worldwide
BSA has had an excellent take-up for our International Forum for Member Schools on Zoom at 09:00 UTC/GMT on Friday, May 22, (10:00 London time BST), including some from the Americas, for whom the time is less than favourable. We look forward to sharing experiences and challenges worldwide and will report back in an “international special edition” of this guidance next week. BSA colleagues will be in attendance, and the Forum will be chaired by Nick Wergan, BSA Vice-Chair (Past Chair), and now European Director of Inspired Education Group. 

For schools planning to reopen, colleagues at ABSA shared their Australian guidance and colleagues at NZBSA (New Zealand Boarding Schools' Association) shared their own NZBSA guidance, as well as from their Ministry of Education and an explanation of their alert levels.  NZBSA has also shared a video from a member school which was prepared to help young people anticipate how their boarding experience would change. It can be found on YouTube.

A.6: Medical Matters
Medical provision in member schools varies tremendously from huge, well-staffed medical centres to small operations where house staff rely on first aid training, the local GP, helplines and emergency responses. The BSA Nurse Advisors have contributed towards today’s upgrade of the BSA checklist with some matters for medical staff to consider.

A.6: #BSAheroes
Please continue to send good news stories to us at bsa@boarding.org.uk and nominate anyone worthy of a special mention by using the hashtag #BSAheroes.

A.7: Regional guidance
Guidance from the devolved administrations and from Ireland is regularly updated, and the main pages for each country are below:

A.8: Inquiries
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in England scheduled to begin next Monday has updated its 'Child Sexual Abuse in Residential Schools' hearing dates to November 16-27. Please click here to view the full timetable. There is no update as yet regarding the inquiry in Scotland.


B. Links to previous BSA advice

If you would like further advice from the BSA, please email bsa@boarding.org.uk.

 

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