The Coronavirus outbreak continues to have a huge impact on people's daily lives in the UK and across the world. With a new, more infectious variant of the virus responsible for a steep increase in the number of cases, the UK Government has announced a nationwide lockdown in a bid to help slow the spread.
The lockdown is expected to last until "at least" mid-February, with schools asked to close until February half term at the earliest. This has come as a shock to schools, who have been working hard to prepare for mass testing of students to further protect their boarding and day communities.
As guardians we remain flexible, helping schools by extending students stays in their host families and at our residential programme in Cambridge and by rearranging travel plans at a fast pace.
The government has published advice specifically for UK boarding schools, which allows overseas students who have already arrived before the announcement or those in transit, to stay at school in the boarding houses. Many schools have, therefore, extended a warm welcome back to those students who will stay there and learn online. In some cases schools have informed parents that their boarding houses will close for all students.
The accrediting body for UK Guardianship Organisations, AEGIS, has consulted its member schools this week to seek confirmation on how guardians like Bright World can best prepare to support schools and overseas pupils at this time and we are responding accordingly to help as much as we can.
A number of Bright World students were in transit back to the UK when the announcement was made. Others were finishing their stay at our Relax & Revise @ Christmas programme or in their Bright World host family, whilst others were or are coming to the end of their period of Quarantine. The majority of students who are in the UK want to stay here.
Our message to schools, parents and students is that we are here to help.
Some students are simply going to extend their stay with the host family they have spent Christmas with until their schools reopen.
We are also busy arranging host families for others who had made it back to the UK and their boarding house is closed.
In some cases, where students are under the age of 16, as they will be staying with their host family for more than 28 days, then there is yet more work to do. It is the responsibility of both the school and the guardian to register any host families or family friends who are not close relatives, as Private Foster Carers for these extended stays.
We want to reassure our partner schools and parents that Bright World is experienced with this and will be registering any host families that fall into this category straight away now that we know that stays are going to exceed 28 days. We will be pro-actively informing overseas parents of the work we are doing and will be informing schools of any students who are being monitored in this way and all the information they need to, in turn, report the stay to the Local Authority as well.
Some of the students who spent Christmas at Cambridge Melchior College have asked to stay there until their school reopens. The college is happy to stay open for them and will continue to take care of them, offering support and help if they need it with their online learning and providing activities during downtime. There are more spaces in Cambridge for any students under our guardianship who prefer a residential setting to a host family.
With the latest lockdown comes the reintroduction of online learning and, just as we did in March, we are here to help support our students with the transition.
After the initial closure of schools in March, as guardians we were impressed with the online provisions offered by our partner schools. Face-to-face lessons are delivered live or by recording, in interactive classrooms, open to students so that they will be able to interact with their teacher in the video classroom or message their teacher with questions or contributions.
ALL Bright World students studying for their GCSES have access to online revision platform, Your Favourite Teacher. This award-winning platform is available to free charge to all Bright World students.
The BBC will be running a series of programmes every day for primary and secondary school students to further support the learning already being provided by schools and the content accessible on the Your Favourite Teacher platform.
Our Guardianship Care team remain ready to help with any online learning queries from parents and students.
Following the announcement of a third national lockdown, all examinations for The 2020/21 academic year have been cancelled.
The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson has confirmed that GCSE and A level exams will be replaced by teacher grade assessments. Mr Williamson also said it would be "mandatory" for schools to provide "high-quality remote education" for three to five hours per day.
As more details emerge on the subject of examinations, we will keep our parents informed.