Since UK schools closed in early January, some schools have kept their boarding houses open to those international students who were already here in the UK or who were in transit when the announcement was made.
We are featuring some of those schools who have welcomed boarders back during lockdown and who we feel have been really positive in their messaging to guardians, agents and parents.
It seems that these schools really are making the best of the situation and ensuring that students, although studying online, are having a great experience of boarding in the UK.
Sidcot School in Somerset is a co-educational boarding school where Bright World has several students under our guardianship. We were pleased to hear back in November that students were going to be invited to stay at school over the Christmas holidays if they wished. Many did and we understand that the festivities were very enjoyable and successful. This means that many students are still in school now and learning online.
All Sidcot boarders on site have been tested at different times since they have returned using the lateral flow testing system administered in school by school nurses. The boarding staff also get tested twice a week to ensure that boarders are kept in a very secure bubble. So far, Sidcot is delighted to have remained a Covid-19 safe environment.
For February half term, and Easter 2021, Sidcot School will be open for boarders as well, meaning that they don’t have to move around and can stay in their Covid safe bubble.
Alexandra Williams, Bright World Buddy for students at Sidcot has remained in touch with them throughout the academic year and says;
"Our guardianship students at Sidcot seem happy and content. They tell me that they feel very safe in the boarding house, and are enjoying the opportunity to socialise with their fellow boarders. They feel the remote learning is going well, and that the school has a good system in place. It’s fantastic to hear that they are having such a positive experience."
"We are insisting at the moment, more than ever, on social distancing and the boarders are responding extremely well. I am really proud of all of them – it is not exactly ideal at the moment but everyone is doing their best. Bless them all!"
On this week's episode, Lana chats with Amandine Smilevich, Head of Boarding and Joanna Leite, Deputy Head (Pastoral) at Sidcot School about boarding life in lockdown.
Rossall School in Lancashire has also remained open throughout the pandemic. Their messaging on reassuring parents on the safety at school has been strong and positive.
A letter from Jeremy Quartermaine, Head, recently stated:
" We appreciate that our children and parents are desperately keen for a speedy return to the classroom and we cannot wait to welcome everyone back. In the meantime, we will continue to ensure that all of our children benefit from a truly outstanding online provision.
Rossall School will remain open throughout February Half Term and boarders will be able to remain with us at no additional cost. The School will also be open to boarders over the Easter break."
Our Local Coordinator or Bright World Buddy for the students at Rossall School, Liz Trist, has commented:
"The boarding staff at Rossall are very aware that students are a long way from home and constantly ensure that the students are presented with activities in downtime and are made to feel part of the school family throughout their time there. The students in turn feel settled and part of their boarding house family.
I have had no concerns with students being unhappy during the lockdown or with restrictions to their learning. The positive outlook of Rossall rubs off on the students and they are upbeat about the situation when I contact them.”
Sibford School has also sent out positive and upbeat messaging even during these troubled times. Sibford has also remained open since Christmas and will remain open for boarders for half term as well to make things as easy and safe as possible for their students. They are committed to keeping a safe and secure boarding environment and to keeping students busy, not just with their study but during leisure times as well. They are very aware of how much exercise and leisure pursuits can be good for our mental health.
The lateral flow testing programme at Sibford has been running smoothly and efficiently since the start of term (all returning boarders have two initial tests followed by regular testing, and all residential staff continue to be tested twice a week.) With these tests and a variety of other safety checks in place, the school has been able to allow their boarding bubble to continue to take advantage of as much of the usual Sibford offer as possible.
Academically, boarders have been immersed in online learning and live lessons, have been sitting formal assessments, completing UCAS applications with support from staff, and have even been busy recording for music auditions and media assignments. Breaks from technology are a must and pupils have gained respite from daily screen grind by piano playing, cooking, playing pool, eating take-aways and having film nights together – generally benefitting from the sense of family and community that a Sibford ‘home-from-home’ boarding experience provides.
"There are a number of boarders on campus during “Lockdown Part III”; we hope that we are a steady Sibford ship on rocky seas, allowing our young people as much of a sense of normality as is possible, whilst also ensuring that they are safe and ‘isolated’ according to government advice.
We are all, essentially, social animals and therefore we are spending time together, taking long walks in our beautiful campus together, building wellbeing dens together; it has been delightful to still hear some laughter even in these turbulent times. These physical connections are helping our young people to be resilient and to remain physically and mentally healthy - combined with the quiet Quaker influence of space, reflection, friendship and wellbeing, this addresses a need that is particularly vital in these pandemic times."
Another school who has been very positive in its messaging to parents is Moreton Hall in Shropshire. Boarding houses at Moreton remain open, providing a safe and homely environment for their international students to remotely access their lessons from school.
We were also impressed to see that the Head is also offering weekly Zoom meetings to chat through any questions that parents, guardians or agents may have.
Our Local Coordinator, Judith Morton-Nash commented that we currently have four Chinese girls studying at Moreton Hall School; one of them is staying locally with her mum and the three others are all at school. The students have been moved into one boarding house for the time being and are all coping very well.
We are all waiting now in anticipation to hear on or around 22nd February whether or not schools can reopen for all students on 8th March. This will mean that all the students who are overseas and studying online can, hopefully, make their way over before Easter and resume studying in school after a period of time in quarantine.
Students can quarantine at school or, if this is not possible, Bright World can assist with our residential offering in Cambridge or in a select few host families who have the appropriate facilities.
For those boarders who are lucky enough to be in school already in boarding, the transition back to face to face learning will be much easier.