This week’s Covid-19 communication covers:
- New update as of 9.3.20 (A, B and C)
- Link to previous advice (D).
As ever the update is issued by BSA in conjunction with ISC and our partners AEGIS and BAISIS. BSA reminds all schools that it is not a medical, statutory or legal authority.
New update as of 9.3.20
A.1: Latest update
Once again, the spread of the virus has continued to develop significantly:
- Following today's COBRA meeting, the UK government has said the UK is remaining in the "contain" stage of its response to the coronavirus. Steps to delay the virus's spread with "social distancing" measures will not be introduced yet, ministers decided.
- The number of cases in the UK has increased sevenfold since last Monday, from around 40 to 280, and there have been three deaths (correct at the time of writing but please note this figure is likely to rise). There have been significant increases in many European and Middle Eastern countries and in the USA.
- Restrictions are in place across significant parts of Northern Italy, including Milan and Venice, and the FCO now advises against all but essential travel to those areas.
- The number of cases in China has continued to drop. With the exception of Japan and the Republic of Korea, the UK now has more confirmed cases than most countries in Asia.
- BSA is well aware that the virus is impacting our member schools in all parts of the globe, particularly those which have been forced to close. Whereas this advice is predominantly based on the situation in the UK, BSA is monitoring matters worldwide, and is happy to receive queries from our member schools overseas, and will advise as best we can.
BSA has had a small number of schools reporting suspected cases but we have yet to receive a confirmed report of a case in a member school.
A.2: Matters to consider
In line with the likely transition to the “delay” phase, schools should re-evaluate all plans for the coming weeks:
- There may be periods of time when schools close locally or nationally, but when boarding schools remain open for boarders. Schools must consider all aspects of how to facilitate this, including staffing and supervision and logistics such as medical cover, food, water, and cleaning.
- Many schools have considered how to deliver lesson content remotely should schools be closed, particularly for exam candidates.
- Restrictions might be placed on “public events”, although there are none currently. Schools should plan ahead, particularly with regard to inter-school events and fixtures.
- Anyone planning travel of any kind in the next few weeks must be advised that both outward and return travel might be disrupted, depending on the continued spread of the virus. Schools should re-evaluate plans for individual pupils at Easter and continue to do so dynamically. Some regions of China are starting to place restrictions on those returning from “affected areas”, and it is becoming clear that parents from some countries which now have significantly fewer cases than the UK would feel safer if their children came home. Schools must take this into account in any forward planning, and not impose unnecessary restrictions, but must ensure parents understand the impact, should it then not be possible for the child to return to the UK at the start of the summer term.
- BSA believes that school leaders must continue to consider public health advice, evaluate the risk of each individual situation, but also ensure that they take no unnecessary risks.
A.3: BSA Events
BSA is carefully monitoring advice and updates and will advise those booked on day seminars, courses, and conferences of any changes or cancellations. In consideration of other participants, delegates and host venues, anyone feeling unwell is asked not to attend and to contact BSA for further information about cancellation or rebooking.
B.1: Ongoing management
BSA advice from previous weeks is still valid and is repeated below:
Most schools now have detailed plans in place for Easter. These should now be “stress-tested” to ensure they are still valid following the recent escalation of the disease profile. In the more immediate phase, schools should prepare for all likely scenarios. These include sudden restrictions on travel, school closures and curtailment of events and “public gatherings”. Schools should be considering the logistical arrangements for keeping boarders safe, including fed and watered, under any such restrictions, especially if a case should develop within the school community.
While respecting any need for confidentiality for the individuals concerned, schools with suspected cases must also communicate openly and honestly with each other if fixtures or other events are planned.
Farrer & co. has produced a further guidance note on the coronavirus outbreak (following up the one sent on Feb 5, 2020). It focuses on the latest school-specific Government guidance and decisions around closure. Please click here to view (a login is required).
B.2: Contingency Plans
ISBA has commissioned an operational business continuity planning tool for members. It introduces a series of hierarchical and escalating response considerations based upon potential worsening outbreak scenarios. The response should be measured, proportionate and cautious, fitting within the school’s overarching critical incident response plan. Please click here to view (a login is required).
B.3: Cases or suspected cases in schools or school closure
Schools must follow the advice of their local health body about managing a case or suspected case in school, but services are extremely stretched, so schools will doubtless be responsible for some of the early management themselves, and must consider how this can be best achieved.
BSA has been in touch with the DfE (for schools in England) to seek guidance on the position of boarders and boarding staff on site in school in the event of the Government ordering all schools to shut. In response, Peter Swift, Head of Independent Education and School Safeguarding has replied:
“We think that in these circumstances the best thing would be for the school to remain open and the boarders to remain.”
As well as having plans in place for Easter, schools should work with pupils and parents to consider the eventuality that things might change at the last minute as a result of restrictions in the UK or another country. BSA has received some offers from schools remaining open over Easter to help those unable to and will include these in our Friday newsletter. Where it is possible for boarding pupils to see their parents or carers over the Easter holiday, all reasonable efforts should be made to facilitate this, while safely observing any self-isolation period which might be advised or operational at that time.
BSA fully appreciates the strain this issue has put on staff in schools, and particularly on pupils and their families, some of whom are making considerable sacrifices. BSA, ISC and our partner organisations AEGIS and BAISIS will continue to support our member schools as best we can during this very challenging period.
C.1: Message from the Department of Education (DfE), England
We have launched a new helpline to answer questions about COVID-19 related to education. Staff, parents and young people can contact the helpline as follows:
No school should close in response to a suspected (or confirmed) COVID-19 case unless directed to do so by Public Health England.
Personal hygiene is the most important way to tackle COVID-19. Please sharing simple and effective hand hygiene messages. Public Health England has a dedicated webpage with a range of posters and digital materials at: https://campaignresources.phe.gov.uk/resources/campaigns/101-coronavirus-/resources. Sign up is quick, free and means you will be alerted as more resources are made available.
New guidance for employers: The Department for Business (BEIS) and Public Health England have issued guidance for employers, which you can find at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-covid-19
Latest government information:
C.2: Public Health advice
The advice from Public Health England is updated daily, although this frequently is just to update on current figures. PHE has several regional offices who can be contacted, and their contact details are here, along with those for Health Protection Scotland, Public Health Wales, Public Health Agency (Northern Ireland) and Department of Health (Ireland).
Health Protection Scotland updated its school advice last week. Please click here to view this advice.
C.3: Public Examinations
Last week Ofqual released guidance on what schools and colleges and other centres should do if exams or other assessments are seriously disrupted (not coronavirus specific but the guidance still applies). Please click here to read the advice.
D. Links to previous BSA advice