This week’s Covid-19 communication covers:
- New update as of 06.04.20
- 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
As anticipated by the medical experts, the last week has seen a real acceleration in the spread of the virus, with the number of reported cases growing from 19,522 to 47,806 yesterday (April 5) and the number of deaths from 1,228 to 4,934. Some experts are predicting that the peak will be reached within the next few days. Worldwide a significant number of countries are now locked down, although some parts of China are now starting to open up, with rates of infection falling.
There has been little new guidance in the past week, and many schools have scaled down their operations considerably for the Easter holiday, although BSA is aware that many schools are still open for children of key workers and for overseas children who are unable to get home. BSA will continue to operate throughout the Easter holiday, but there will be no guidance update next Monday (Easter Monday). The next scheduled update is on 20 April, although we shall respond to any urgent circumstances in the meantime.
A.2: Pupils from mainland China - URGENT
Colleagues will recall that last week’s guidance included information about InterGreat Education Group, who are trying to arrange repatriation flights with the Chinese embassy. BSA has now received a communication from InterGreat indicating that there is the possibility of a repatriation flight later this week (Thursday). Clearly this flight will be accessible to a wider group than just the BSA member schools, so there are no guarantees. However, if you have pupils and families interested in this or future flights, it is essential to complete the two forms on the BSA website and return them to InterGreat (firstname.lastname@example.org). Any schools who have already been in touch with InterGreat will hopefully be sent this information directly. Parent or guardian will need to sign the declaration form (unless the pupil is over 18), and will need to read it carefully, as it refers to the conditions under which the trip will take place.
A.3: Other countries
Obviously there are pupils from many other countries who are also unable to get home. Although many will have originally planned to stay, the situation changed when exams were cancelled, by which time international travel had already become very difficult. BSA is keeping abreast of all relevant information, but for specific issues with individual pupils, we strongly advise contacting the embassy or consulate of the country concerned. Do please let us know any specific information which might be of use to other schools so that we can update and circulate as appropriate.
A.4: Updated Safeguarding guidance and online learning
In England, the Department for Education produced updated safeguarding guidance on March 27, and BSA has subsequently received some advice from our online safety expert Karl Hopwood, who has interpreted parts of the guidance relating to online safety and distance learning. Karl’s advice sheet can be found on the BSA website. In addition to Karl’s guidance, ISI circulated some prompts also.
A.5: Tier 4 duties
A reminder that the UK Government issued guidance for Tier 2, Tier 4 and Tier 5 sponsors. All schools that are sponsors are urged to become familiar with the updated document.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, the team from Pennington Manches Cooper LLP will be running an 'Education Providers COVID-19 Immigration Hotline' between 11:00-12:00: +44 (0)202 7457 3143.
The team from Fragomen LLP have kindly provided a useful update regarding Tier 4:
The UKVI confirmed last week a couple of points on COS/CAS issuance. We have receive a number of queries in relation to issuing a CAS now, and then what happens if this is not used to support of a visa application in 6 months time. The following Guidance has been confirmed:
"The employee or student will still be able to apply for a visa. The start date for the course or employment stated on the CoS or CAS may have changed. We will not automatically refuse such cases. For example, we may accept a CoS or CAS if they have become invalid because the employee or student was unable to travel as a result of coronavirus. We will consider this on a case by case basis."
Despite the above guidance being published, it is clearly noted that requests will be discretionary. It is therefore recommended that CAS issuance is placed on hold until more positive news is released in respect to relaxed restrictions.
Managing Expectations - the visa process
In the UK: For those Tier 4 students who continue to be in the UK and would be planning to submit an extension/switch schools, it is recommended to file this application online and pay the application fee as normal. A bio-metric appointment cannot be scheduled at this time, but will be available once centres re-open.
If a Tier 4 student is in the UK and is unable to return home due to restrictions, should they have a visa expiry on or before 31st May 2020, they may email the COVID-19 team to secure a temporary extension of status.
Overseas: All visa centres globally are now closed until further notice. Should a visa application be pending, this will be placed on hold. For those who have a visa appointment booked, this will be rescheduled. It is important to communicate to families that once visa centres re-open it is expected for there to be a delay in appointment availability and extended processing times. This is something to bare in mind should restrictions be lifted in time for September start dates.
A.6: Supporting the community
BSA is very grateful to all member schools who have made their facilities available for the use of the local community under the current circumstances. We are pleased to report that over 8,700 beds have been offered to local NHS trusts as part of our recent appeal, and we are aware of other schools offering equipment and expertise also.
A.7: School financial matters
Although there is no further definitive information since last week, BSA is working with all ISC associations, led by ISBA, to lobby hard on behalf of schools relating to the financial position, and there has been a further telephone conversation with Baroness Berridge, who has taken a great interest in the matter. As mentioned previously this includes working with SCIS to raise the matter in Scotland. With WISC in Wales, and by direct contact with the Department for Education in Northern Ireland. The interests of state boarding schools continue to be raised proactively also.
There are lots of good news stories in our social media feeds. Please continue to send them to us at email@example.com and nominate anyone worthy of a special mention by using the hashtag #BSAheroes
A.9: A reminder of previous guidance
Also following lobbying by BSA, the DfE produced guidance on isolation procedures for boarding schools, which is available here.
The following new guidance was also highlighted in a previous newsletter:
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.10: Regional guidance
Guidance from the devolved administrations and from Ireland is regularly updated, and the main pages for each country are below:
B. Links to previous BSA advice
- March 30, 2020
- March 23, 2020
- March 18, 2020
- March 17, 2020
- March 09, 2020
- March 02, 2020
- February 25, 2020
- February 24, 2020
- February 17, 2020
- February 10, 2020
- February 3, 2020
- January 27, 2020.
If you would like further advice from the BSA, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.