Covid-19: Update and Guidance for Schools

13th March 2020

Guidance from the Boarding Schools Association:

On Wednesday, the WHO announced that the COVID-19 virus is now a global pandemic. The IFRC, UNICEF and WHO guidance to protect children and support safe schools report can be viewed here. Several governments around the world have imposed a number of in-country and travel restrictions.

UK

As you will be aware, the government announced last night that the UK has now moved to the ‘delay’ stage of the COVID-19 planning. The latest guidance for education settings can be viewed here. The advice includes:

  • schools to remain open
  • no overseas school trips
  • people with fever or persistent cough told to self-isolate for seven days
  • public gatherings of 500 people or more are to be cancelled (Scotland only)

Public Health England has released new guidance for those staying at home with confirmed or suspected cases of coronavirus. The advice states:

  • Not to go to work, school, or public areas, use public transport or taxis – or even for a walk
  • Those with even mild symptoms of infection should stay at least two metres away from other people in their homes and should sleep alone
  • Those with confirmed or suspected cases should use a separate bathroom

This advice will have implications for some members, and boarding schools should begin to plan for isolating boarders and what to do about staff shortages should they fall ill. VWV has produced a useful summary that can be viewed here. To read the Prime Minister’s statement, please click here.

Ireland

The Taoiseach announced yesterday that from 18:00 (March 12) until March 29, schools, colleges, and other public facilities in the Republic are to close. Della Sammon, from the Department of Education and Skills has confirmed:

It is not expected that the residential part of schools close and normal arrangements regarding the duty of care to boarders should continue to apply. However it is also important that Health Service Executive (HSE) advice should be followed at all times, including the need to practice social distancing, and to minimise physical contact to help avoid the spread of Covid-19.

In order to minimise the impact on teaching and learning, all schools are asked to continue to plan lessons and, where possible, provide online resources for students or online lessons where schools are equipped to do so. Schools should prioritise supporting exam classes to continue to prepare for State examinations.

Italy

As a result of the government lock down, schools are closed in Italy but boarding schools are still caring for boarders.

France

President Macron announced on Thursday evening that all schools and universities will close from Monday following a spike in confirmed cases.

International travel for boarders

Many international pupils are now considering returning home for Easter from the UK or have already left. China has implemented new measures including self-isolation or quarantine for inbound visitors or returning nationals, which you can view here: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/china/health#coronavirus

UKVI has updated its immigration guidance in relation to COVID-19 and the relevant section states:

Some Tier 4 students or Tier 2/5 employees may be prevented from attending their studies or employment due to illness, the need to serve a period of quarantine or the inability to travel due to travel restrictions caused by coronavirus.

Sponsors do not need to report student or employee absences related to coronavirus which they have authorised.

Sponsors do not need to withdraw sponsorship if they consider there to be exceptional circumstances where:

  • a student will be unable to attend for more than 60 days
  • an employee is absent from work without pay for four weeks or more

Decisions on whether to withdraw a student from their studies or terminate an employment are for sponsors to make. The Home Office recognises the current situation is exceptional and will not take any compliance action against students or employees who are unable to attend their studies/work due to the coronavirus outbreak, or against sponsors which authorise absences and continue to sponsor students or employees despite absences for this reason.

The Home Office will keep this under review, especially if the length of absences mean a potential repeat of period of studies become necessary. Click here to read the full guidance.


Information from ISA:

ISA Events

Currently the ISA is still planning to go ahead with our Arts, Sports and Professional Development events. We will continue to review each event on a case by case basis, and we are closely listening to government’s guidance on such matters. A large proportion of our events are held at our members schools, and we are working closely with these schools to ensure that each event can go ahead. In the event of any changes, attendees will be contacted as soon as possible. We will update all our members if our policy on events changes. If you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

The ISA Online Support Community

Many ISA  members are sharing guidance about Covid-19 on our Online Community Forum. If you would like to sign up to receive advice and support from fellow members, contact ISA’s Deputy CEO, Peter Woodroffe.


Information from ISC:

Exam disruption

Read Ofqual’s statement on coronavirus and the summer 2020 exam series here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/updated-statement-on-coronavirus

The ISC Digital Strategy Group

The ISC Digital Strategy Group is collecting materials to support online/distance learning in the event any school has a need for such resources during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Should our members have information they can contribute, please email the Group’s chair, Ian Phillips.  Content will be hosted on the ISC Digital Strategy Group website: https://iscdigital.co.uk/coronavirus-continuing-learning/#respond

A message from ISI

We appreciate that schools are under a lot of pressure given the unprecedented nature of this situation: ISI is working closely with both the Department for Education and Ofsted and is monitoring emerging guidance constantly. The current situation is as follows.

The Government has provided advice to schools in relation to COVID-19 and it currently expects most schools to remain open as normal. Where a school has specific local issues, they should engage with Public Health England to get appropriate advice. If this situation changes, further guidance will follow.

In this context, and as commissioned by DfE, ISI and Ofsted are both continuing to inspect schools as normal. If there is a specific issue in relation to an inspection in this period, the school should inform the inspectorate when they are notified of the inspection. Specific circumstances will be considered on a case-by-case basis but inspections will normally be undertaken unless advice from Public Health England indicates that it is not appropriate.

Inspectors understand that the current situation will be causing anxiety and additional work across a wide range of schools and – as with any inspection – the context in which the school is inspected will be considered in reaching any inspection judgements. Where schools are taking appropriate measures to deal with issues arising from COVID-19 at the time of the inspection this will be reflected in the judgements. Inspectors will want to see that school leaders are able to address any urgent needs that arise within the school over the course of the inspection appropriately and will manage the inspection accordingly.