What are British independent schools' policies for Covid-19?

Overseas Property | Samuel Chan 26 May 2020

With the lockdown in the UK now easing slightly, the next stage of the fight against the virus is under way.

As far as independent schools are concerned, the schools are still very much closed for now.

However, schools are now creating clear policies for dealing with Covid-19 safely and efficiently for when they reopen. And they are making sure that the information is available to parents in Hong Kong and across Asia so that they can be reassured about what will happen at the start of the next academic year.

Last week, the Boarding Schools' Association and Britannia held a Facebook Live event that gave parents a valuable opportunity to ask their most pressing questions relating to UK schools and the virus.

The virtual event lasted for 1 hours, with over 400 families tuned in at its peak. Since then it has received over 7,000 views, reaching many parents and students in need of guidance.

At the top of the list were questions about masks and whether they would be permitted in UK schools. The answer is yes, they will be permitted since the general UK policy has now shifted.

Masks are now strongly encouraged in the UK - particularly on public transport and in confined spaces where social distancing is more challenging.

Parents were also keen to know about quarantine measures for returning students. It will be necessary for those entering the UK to undergo a two-week quarantine period, and this includes international students.

It is very likely some schools will be giving students the opportunity to return two weeks prior to the start of term to live in a special area of the school during the quarantine period once the government has confirmed that this is permitted. There is also the option of being in quarantine with guardians or in a government facility.

Mental health, as well as physical wellbeing, was also a concern for parents who wanted to know how schools would deal with potential discrimination or bullying of international students from Asia, given that the pandemic began in mainland China.

Caroline Nixon, on behalf of the BSA, said the association would be taking this matter very seriously and ensuring that schools were vigilant and firm on policing this, both around the school and online.

She added, though, that discrimination of this kind was now not likely, given the complete, global nature of the pandemic.

It is very pleasing to see things are now taking a more positive direction. It is also wonderful to see head teachers ensuring that there is a good, ongoing line of communication with concerned Asian parents.

Repton School has been particularly strong throughout, keeping in regular contact with me since February and trying to gather as many opinions and insights as possible.

Mark Semmence, the head teacher, showed great foresight in trying to learn from the experience of Hong Kong and the mainland to work out what will happen in the UK and what policies should be taken.

His was also one of the first schools to offer reduced fees to parents.

Wellington School and Malvern College have also been very impressive in keeping in touch with international parents, with Malvern being one of the first to announce a potential hybrid teaching style if schools do reopen in September: partly offline and partly online so parents have the option if they're not 100 percent sure.

As the feeling of optimism grows, many parents here in Hong Kong and Asia are still trying to make decisions about the immediate future.

Nixon put it very well when she said that the UK is still one of the safest places in the world, with Covid-19 presenting just one of the many threats, diseases and safety problems that exist globally.

The danger for young people is very low, and the UK still has the same excellent education system it had before Covid-19.

Indeed, teaching standards are now higher than ever following the rapid training of teachers to work online, enabling them to take full advantage of advanced technology to enhance education.

Samuel Chan is the founder of Britannia StudyLink

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