With the amount of flights being cancelled each day, it was almost expected that any upcoming flights would indeed meet the same fate. This certainly seemed to be the case as we entered the new week, and it was looking increasingly likely that more of our students were to be stranded in the UK for their Easter holidays. Though not the desired scenario for them, these students have shown great patience and understanding, and have been more than happy to relinquish their plans and instead stay with one of our host families. There was still hope that some of them may yet be able to catch a flight in the coming days.
We also launched our Keeping in Touch initiative on this day. This project was to be made up of four main components, each designed to keep our students engaged whilst schools are closed. The first element was to be communication from Guardianship Care Managers and Bright World Buddies to their students. The second component would be some educational webinars hosted by Bright World and guest speakers. Next, we had managed to gain free access to Your Favourite Teacher for each of our students who are in Year 9-11. This platform is usually a paid service and comprises of an award-winning online GCSE revision platform. Lastly, we announced we would be running a writing competition for our students with exciting prizes to be announced. More precise details of this were to follow in the coming days.
You can read more about our Keeping in Touch initiative by clicking on the link below.
On Tuesday, our remaining Chinese students were offered a lifeline of getting home, when we received notification from AEGIS that the Chinese Embassy had been in touch. They had emailed AEGIS to enquire about the number of Chinese students who were, at the time, unable to travel home, with a view to repatriating them. AEGIS forwarded the correspondence and urged all guardianship organisations to make contact, and provide the embassy with the details of any students who were still intending to fly home. We got in touch with any students in this situation, to see what their preference would be.
Our Accommodation Team started a weekly call and check-in with the host families who are taking care of our students who are still in the UK. Meanwhile, our Bright World Buddies contacted all the students to find out how they were getting along. Our Guardianship Care team then collated both sets of reports before distributing them to overseas parents.
Nobody was in the mood for joking on April Fools Day this year, as the number of UK coronavirus-related deaths eclipsed 2,000.
At Bright World, Lana spent most of the day sending all the details of students who wanted to fly home to the Chinese Embassy. This involved quite a lot of administration and paperwork, but was all necessary to try and ensure that these students could get home to their families. Lana was told that the first repatriation flight might well be full up already, but they were going to push for further flights to be arranged, so hopefully all stranded students would indeed make it home.
Some schools' boarding houses had agreed to stay open for their students until they were able to travel home, and some had even permitted students to stay for the duration of the Easter holidays. However, most of them were now closed, following the departure of all students. A few were still open, accommodating maybe one or two students who were yet to leave.
Thursday saw the first batch of our students who were able to return home via the Chinese Embassy-arranged flight to China. Students who were able to be booked onto one of these flights were apparently referring to it as their "golden ticket" home, as seemingly it was their only chance of a return home at that point. Some Chinese students, however, decided against claiming this "golden ticket", instead electing they were happy to stay in the UK at their boarding house, or with their Bright World host family. Though it was nice to see the majority of our students return to their parents back home, it was also lovely to see how much others valued the relationships they had forged with their host families, and were comfortable remaining with them.
We were already beginning to ensure we were prepared for our students' return after Easter, should this go ahead as normal. Our Accommodation and Travel team had been busy placing students into host families for the May exeat weekend, as they would have been normally. The Guardianship Care Managers then began to carry out their pre-event checks with students, so they could confirm the arrangements we had made for them, should they return to school in May. The whole team is already well prepared for the return of our students, regardless of when it may occur.
By Friday, more of our students from China had managed to book new flights back so, barring any more cancellations, were set to make it home. This meant that the Guardianship and Travel teams were going to have another busy week, with plenty of airport transfers to book and careful coordination with host families and schools regarding their students' departures.
It was becoming more common for Chinese parents to show apprehension about their children returning home. Though they of course wanted to see them, they were worried about the risk of infection to their children whilst they were at airports and on planes. We were seeing many parents sending over protective clothing and masks in advance of journeys.
The other concern they faced was the 2-week quarantine measures being imposed upon students arriving back in China. For this reason, we were finding that many parents were preferring for their sons and daughters to stay in the UK with their Bright World host family, awaiting possibility of the quarantine requirements being lifted.