This is going to be THE question on the minds of parents as we approach the start of a new academic year. For students all set to join new schools in September, especially those who are going to be boarding, the usual excitement and anticipation will inevitably be mixed with a degree of apprehension. However, in many ways a boarding school, with a large, leafy campus and plenty of space, albeit with the necessary precautions in place, will provide a safe and secure educational bubble.
Whilst we cannot predict how the pandemic situation will evolve, what we can say with a high degree of confidence is that UK private schools have been changing and adapting fast to the new challenges and are producing impressive sets of guidelines with plans being constantly improved and updated.
The Boarding Schools Association (BSA) has published its own Covid-Safe Charter, to which over 100 BSA member schools have signed up. It covers everything from cleaning to travel and quarantine arrangements for international pupils.
They key message is that schools are fully expecting to be welcoming students in September but if for any reason students are not able to be on campus, everything possible will be done to ensure that their education can go ahead with minimum disruption.
We take a look at some measures that schools are putting in place:-
- Students are likely to be grouped together in ‘bubbles’ based on their year groups for teaching and boarding so that they will be with other students they can interact with normally, but with minimal mixing between students of different ages. Students will have meals with their year groups with cleaning between sittings.
- There will be regular temperature checks and any students who are unwell will be carefully monitored. Those displaying potential coronavirus symptoms will be tested and isolated accordingly and where possible in bubbles with other children who are isolating.
- Schools and colleges will have hand sanitisers around the campus and encourage frequent and effective hand washing.
- Classrooms and other communal areas will be cleaned frequently
- Schools will be teaching a full timetable, with the flexibility of classes being delivered online if necessary for some or all students.
- Classroom layouts will be changed so that students can sit apart from each other and use of shared computers may be limited.
- Crucially, staff will be very vigilant not only with regard to students’ physical health but also their mental well-being at a time when many young people are feeling anxious and disorientated.
How can I prepare my child to start boarding in 2020?
It is very important that parents don’t let their own worries rub off on their children but should reassure them that they will be safe and happy. It will be helpful to go through some of the guidelines that schools are sending out with their child so that they become familiar and they know what to expect.
We’re all having to cope with new and challenging circumstances and life is certainly different from what we’ve been used to. However, it can and must still be exciting, vibrant and fun and this is the key message adults should be passing on to young people.