This advice is issued in the context of a rapidly changing situation and on behalf of AEGIS, BSA and BAISIS
1. What is Coronavirus?
According to https://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/ “Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause a range of illnesses,
from the common cold to more severe infections like MERS-CoV and SARS
(severe acute respiratory syndrome).”
On January 24, the World Health Organisation said: “not
enough is known about the epidemiology of 2019-nCoV to draw definitive
conclusions about the full clinical features of the disease, the intensity of
the human-to-human transmission, and the original source of the outbreak”.
More recently, however, Chinese authorities have
confirmed that the disease is infectious before patients are symptomatic.
2. Where is the outbreak?
The outbreak started in Wuhan in Hubei Province, China. Cases have also been
confirmed in Hong Kong, and the USA, France, and Australia, among others. Hong
Kong has declared a state of emergency and shut all schools and universities
until February 17. Several people have been tested for the virus in the UK but
as yet there are no confirmed cases.
3. Is it safe to travel to China?
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office currently advises against travel to Hubei
Province. BSA would, therefore, counsel schools to:
- Confirm all overseas pupils have appropriate
guardian arrangements in place in accordance with the relevant school policies
and procedures. BSA recommends schools use AEGIS-registered guardians (https://aegisuk.net)
- Advise parents, carers and guardians of any
pupils proposing to travel to China and Hong Kong over February half-term to
consider not travelling. Where possible assist with making suitable alternative
arrangements with guardians. In certain circumstances this might include
keeping part of the school open for the duration, assuming this can be
appropriately staffed and resourced. Please
note: AEGIS advises that it will be highly unlikely that homestays arranged by
guardians will be able to provide quarantine.
4. What about pupils who travel to China and
then return to school?
If students do decide to travel to China, when they return BSA counsels the
- Advise those who decide to travel that
protective measures could well be in place before they return. Depending on how
the virus spreads in that time, this could include the need for returning
pupils to be quarantined.
- Work with guardians to develop quarantine
procedures. This should not be seen as an over-reaction or ‘scare-mongering’
but is based on experience gained from the progress of previous such
diseases. Please note:
AEGIS advises that it will be highly unlikely that homestays arranged by
guardians will be able to provide quarantine.
- Discuss information relating to any potential
vulnerabilities from visitors, such as parents, family members, agents or
guardians, who have recently returned from affected areas with local health
5. What about planned visits to my school from
BSA understands that some schools have already cancelled visits from
prospective parents, agents and pupils from China. While cancellation may be
unnecessary, it is obviously prudent to minimise any unnecessary risk. If
schools do decide to cancel incoming visits, they should ensure admissions
staff and registrars are given clear information with which they can respond to
6. What should we doing medically?
BSA is monitoring advice from Public Health England, Health Protection Scotland
and Public Health Wales, as well as other organisations, including MOSA
(Medical Officers of Schools Association), and has written to Public Health
England and to the Health Secretary. It is also liaising daily with BSA’s lead
nursing advisers to try to keep medical advice up to date.
NHS England Wuhan novel
“If you have travelled to Wuhan City in China in the
last 2 weeks and feel unwell, call NHS 111 for advice. Do not go straight to a
doctor’s surgery or hospital.”
Symptoms usually include:
- feeling tired
- difficulty breathing
- a high temperature
- a cough.
To read the NHS guidance in full: www.nhs.uk/conditions/wuhan-novel-coronavirus
Based on the current situation, BSA would advise schools
- Ensure school medical and pastoral staff are
familiar with the relevant symptoms of Coronavirus (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/wuhan-novel-coronavirus/)
BUT for them also to be aware that some of these symptoms are also present in
many other conditions, including influenza.
- Ensure senior leaders, medical, reception and
admissions staff are advised as part of their planning to consider how the
school would respond to a suspected or confirmed case and the need to isolate
one or more pupils. Any suspected cases should be reported to the local GP or
to NHS/ HPS 111 helplines for advice BEFORE taking the child to a surgery or
emergency department. It is advisable to undertake a thorough travel
history of affected pupils and their contacts within the past 14 days.
7. Should pupils be quarantined?
The current situation is different from the SARS outbreak in 2003, when many
schools had to quarantine pupils. On that occasion, many pupils had already
travelled home for Easter before the spread of SARS was identified. However, it
is essential that all schools consider appropriate, proportionate and
risk-assessed responses based on the circumstances of the individual school,
the situation locally and updated advice from the relevant authorities.
8. How should we support students?
It is natural that all students, in particular, those from China, will be
concerned. In line with normal pastoral procedures, BSA recommends that schools
- Ensure pupils who come from the affected areas
are suitably and publicly supported. They will be worried about themselves but
more particularly about their friends and families.
- Ensure the school responds sensitively and
empathetically to any special circumstances, such as children or staff who need
to travel because of family emergencies, bereavements and so on.
- Stay alert for any signs of xenophobia by
students towards one another, or by any external audiences, either in school or
on social media sites. Such behaviour should not be tolerated and action should
be taken against anyone acting in this way.
9. How should we communicate?
Even though there are no confirmed cases in the UK and there is no need for
medical alarm at this stage, it is important member schools communicate clearly
and regularly about the situation. BSA would recommend creating a clear,
common, comprehensive communication that can be used for as many audiences as
possible. Wording to include in this communication could include:
I write to update and assure
you about the precautions our school community is taking to prevent against the
Novel Coronavirus outbreak. We continue to monitor the situation regularly
and are taking a dynamic approach to this complex and changing picture, following the
advice of Public Health England (PHE) to ensure the health of our whole
community, including pupils and staff.
We are mindful that there
will be a number of parents who are concerned about the health of their
children and would like to assure you that we are assessing any potential risks
on a daily basis. The advice we are following is regularly updated and I
would encourage you to follow these updates on the PHE website which offers
sensible and unbiased information to anyone who may be worried. Based on
the current evidence from WHO and PHE there is no immediate cause for concern,
however we have taken the following precautions:
- Confirmed no pupil or
visitor to the school has been in China, particularly the Wuhan region, since
- We are accepting no pupil or
visitor from China and affected regions until the outbreak is contained.
- All staff and pupils,
particularly medical centre and boarding staff, have been briefed on the signs
and symptoms of the Novel Coronavirus.
The latest update from the
NHS can be found here (www.nhs.uk/conditions/wuhan-novel-coronavirus).
As half-term approaches, we
ask that any pupil or family who intends to travel to/from, or have direct
contact with anyone from, a Novel Coronavirus affected area, to inform us
immediately. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office currently advises against
travel to Hubei Province.
- Any pupil, parent or visitor
who has travelled to or been in direct contact with anyone from a Novel
Coronavirus affected area may be asked to remain at home to prevent the
potential spread of the virus.
- We ask our international
community to speak with their UK guardian to check that emergency cover can be
made available and if not to let school know immediately.
The wellbeing of our whole
school community is of the upmost importance at this time, especially those
from China and other affected areas, and I am sure you will join me in
supporting them during this worrying period.
We will continue to keep you informed as the situation and official advice changes. Should you wish to discuss any of the above, please do not hesitate to contact school.
For further information or advice regarding guardianship arrangements, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org