Boarding schools warned over coronavirus xenophobia

Schools have been warned to watch out for signs of prejudice towards Chinese students from peers or via social media

Tes Reporter

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Boarding schools have been advised to be alert to signs of xenophobia among pupils arising from the coronavirus outbreak.

New guidance issued by the Boarding Schools' Association (BSA) to its members suggests they should look out for prejudice towards Chinese students by others – either in person or on social media.

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It also says that pupils who do travel to China should be told that when they return to the UK they may face "protective measures", including quarantine.

China sends more pupils to UK fee-paying schools than any other country, with the latest figures indicating that Chinese children make up about one in six of all international students.

Updated guidance published on the BSA's website gives member schools information on the virus and advice on dealing with the situation.

In a section on supporting students, the guidance says it is natural that young people, particularly those from China, will be concerned.

The BSA suggests that pupils from affected areas should be "suitably and publicly supported".

"They will be worried about themselves but more particularly about their friends and families," the advice says.

And it also counsels schools to "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".

It adds: "Such behaviour should not be tolerated and action should be taken against anyone acting in this way."

On the issue of xenophobia, a BSA spokesperson said: "We have not heard of anything happening in our schools, and we don't envisage it happening in our schools. We are trying to make sure we are covering every eventuality."

A separate section on pupils travelling to China advises schools that they should tell young people 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," it says.

Schools should work with guardians to develop quarantine processes, the guidance says, adding: "This should not be seen as an overreaction or 'scaremongering' but is based on experience gained from the progress of previous such diseases."

The BSA also says it 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," it adds.

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