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BSA launches a COVID-SAFE CHARTER for boarding schools
26th May 2020

This week’s Covid-19 communication covers:

  1. New update as of 26.05.20
  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
Despite lockdown measures continuing to ease in many countries, UNESCO still reports country-wide closures in 150 countries. The “school closure” monitor indicates that Norway, France, Iceland, New Zealand, and Austria are among the countries which have fully reopened, but even in those countries this is not necessarily for all pupils in all year groups, and attendance is variable.  Some countries with federal systems, such as USA, Australia, and Germany, run education on a state by state basis, so reopening plans may vary in different areas. As highlighted last week, UNESCO has also produced a  Framework for Reopening, aimed mainly at Governments, but also of use to schools in understanding wider thinking, and for those schools which are truly independent of state control. 

WHO figures indicate an increase of three-quarters of a million new cases since last week with 342,029 reported deaths (compared to 307,395) There is significant concern about the rate of increase in infections in Brazil, and in some other South American countries. However the daily rate of increase in cases remains over 1,000 in certain countries in Europe, North America, South-East Asia, and the Middle East.   In the UK reported deaths have risen from 34,636 to 36,914 with the rate slowing considerably, but still with a relatively high number of new daily infections compared to many countries. When negotiating a way towards reopening boarding houses, it is essential that we remember the impact of the disease on individuals, families, schools, and communities, and the thoughts of everyone at BSA remain with all those who have been impacted.

A.2: Covid-Safe Charter
Many BSA member schools asked for co-ordinated action to reassure pupils and parents that boarding schools took their responsibilities very seriously and that boarding would be a safe environment to which pupils could return.  This issue of parent and pupil confidence exists not just for schools in the UK, but for any school which is asking parents and carers to entrust them with their children’s care, as well as their education. 

With this in mind, BSA today launches its COVID-SAFE CHARTER

This is a voluntary code to which schools can adhere, and which aims to give confidence to everyone that the school is following all appropriate measures to ensure that boarding is a safe environment for pupils. Although member schools can choose whether they wish to adopt the Covid-Safe Charter, any school doing so must guarantee to meet all of the requirements.  These schools may then inform parents, pupils, guardians, and agents that they have adopted the Charter and may share it with those groups as appropriate. BSA has also produced a template letter to which schools may add their own logo and details as appropriate, which international pupils can use as a way of demonstrating that they are travelling back to a BSA member school. 

BSA is aware that laws, guidance, and regulation vary from country to country, and nothing in the Covid-Safe Charter is designed to override local protocols. However in certain areas the Charter expects schools to go beyond statutory requirements as a way of reassuring everyone that the boarding house is safe. A key issue internationally is that of face-coverings and masks. BSA is aware that some countries, including the UK, do not require face-coverings or masks to be worn, but it is very clear that many parents will not let their child travel back to school unless they can be sure that the pupil will be allowed to wear a mask or face-covering, and will not be criticised for wishing to do so. As highlighted in previous guidance, BSA also advocates that schools will need to be as flexible and accommodating as possible with both new and existing boarders, as not all of them will be able or willing to return immediately.  The caveat for those coming to the UK, of course, is for new boarders who are European passport holders to receive clear guidance about the December 31st cut-off for arriving in the UK without additional measures being necessary.

A.3: International update
The BSA CHECKLIST FOR REOPENING BOARDING is available for all member schools worldwide to use and adapt to their own circumstances

BSA held a very successful forum for International members on Friday last, with over fifty people on the call representing more than 40 schools from 20 countries. These included representatives from every continent except Antarctica! The forum was expertly chaired by Nick Wergan, BSA Vice-Chair (Past Chair), and now the European Director of Inspired Education Group. Colleagues waiting to reopen shared their worries and concerns, and those who had reopened, or were about to, gave their perspectives on some of the challenges. Richard Stokes, CEO of the Australian Boarding Schools’ Association shared a particularly valuable “Outbreak Management Plan”, as well as highlighting the other documentation from Australia which is now on the BSA website, along with similar guidance from New Zealand.  Other international updates are below, but generally, a return to boarding remains very limited, even where schools are open:

  • China. Schools continue to reopen, including in the bigger cities and in Wuhan, and there have only been two further reported deaths since the update on May 11.
  • Hong Kong SAR. Hong Kong still plans a phased reopening of schools beginning tomorrow, May 27, but some international schools were allowed to resume last week, given their earlier end-of-term dates.
  • Thailand. The focus remains on the July 1 reopening date previously announced.   The number of daily reported cases is now in single figures, and there have been three additional deaths since May 11.
  • South Korea. Schools and kindergartens began reopening from May 20, but some schools in Seoul have now closed again because of a local Covid case.  The last three weeks have seen 17 deaths, but the number of daily new cases is very low, with only 16 reported yesterday.
  • Malaysia. There have been small clusters of cases recently, but only twelve reported deaths in the last three weeks.  The Government will next review a possible return to school on June 9, but with no immediate return expected.
  • India. The situation in India remains very challenging, with now over 4,000 deaths, and almost 7,000 new cases yesterday alone.  However the rate of infection remains low for such a populous country.  Some school exams are taking place, and control measures have been put in place around some of the schools concerned.
  • Kenya. Although an early June restart was being discussed, opinions are currently divided, and there is no consensus as to whether June, July or September is the optimal return date. There have now been 51 deaths, and there were 22 new infections yesterday.
  • Nigeria. There remain no current plans to reopen schools. Deaths have risen to 226, with daily infections at 300+ yesterday.
  • Ireland. The country reported no new deaths for the first time since March. With the scheduled end of the year already upon us, there are no plans to reopen schools before the autumn term.
  • Germany.  The situation remains variable, as education policy is decided by each state.  For example, Schleswig-Holstein opened further schools yesterday, but Saxony is not reopening until after the summer. However, holiday dates in different states can vary considerably. Germany had just under 300 new infections yesterday and continues with a gradual reopening of the economy.
  • Italy. Daily infections have dropped to 500 and deaths to 50, and the lockdown is cautiously being eased. Schools will not reopen before September.
  • Spain. Current numbers are similar to those in Italy, with infections under 500 and deaths at 75 yesterday. Spain’s schools will not reopen this term. 
  • France. France reported 31 new cases yesterday, and pupils started to return to school on May 11, beginning with primary schools. The Minister for Education described the need to return to school as a “social emergency” but there is no compulsion for parents to send their children.
  • Switzerland. Some schools in Switzerland, including BSA members, have reopened their day school elements. There were no reported new deaths yesterday, and 11 infections.
  • USA. Since the May 11 update a further 33,000 have died in the USA, and daily new cases were over 24,000 yesterday. However, the picture varies tremendously across the country, and some states have started to reopen schools, though with many focusing on a restart for the “Fall” term.
  • Russia. Compared to the number of infections, the rate of reported deaths remains low, with 92 yesterday. With the Russian Federation being such a vast country, the infections remain clustered in certain areas, and school opening status remains related to the local situation.

A.4: UK reopening
The Government confirmed its intention to reopen schools in England to Reception, Year 1, and Year 6 from next Monday. The PLANNING GUIDE lists the issues to consider for schools, and last week DfE issued additional guidance on Year 6 boarding.

Yesterday the guidance on Year 10 and 12 return to school was issued. This makes no mention of boarding, and contains a number of issues which BSA and ISC are raising with DfE:

  • How the 25% rule will work in boarding and for small schools (25% of each year group can be in school at any one time)
  • How the definition of “school grounds” will work for boarding schools (other than those being taught, the guidance says that no other pupils should be on the “school grounds”)
  • How the “rotas” will work (rotas cannot be split within a day, just from day to day.)

The existing guidance on ISOLATION PROCEDURES for a suspected case of COVID in a residential setting remains in place.

As previously mentioned Wales and Northern Ireland do not see June 1st as a realistic date for reopening schools. Northern Ireland published a five stage plan but there is no new update from Wales, although WISC contacts the Welsh Government on a regular basis. In Scotland the date of August 11 has been mentioned, but there is no clear guidance that this is a definite date. SCIS maintains a dialogue with the administration, and BSA has regular contact with both SCIS and WISC.

The other issue for all parts of the UK is the quarantine arrangement which comes in on June 8 for an unspecified period (though of at least three weeks). BSA is seeking clarification that boarding schools can be used as “accommodation” under the guidance.  

Please see last week’s guidance for details of other current documentation.

A reminder that 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.

A5: Online safety
South West Grid for Learning has issued “Online Safety Considerations for Reopening”, which makes interesting reading.

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.


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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