Boarding schools in Scotland are seeking permission to stay open over the Easter break so they can continue to look after pupils who are unable to return to countries like China that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is currently advising against all travel to Hubei Province in China and against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China, as well as some parts of South Korea and the whole of Italy.
The largest proportion of overseas students attending Scottish boarding schools comes from China, according to John Edward, director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools.
Advice: Coronavirus: a guide for schools
Live blog: Coronavirus and schools
He said that Scottish boarding schools were therefore seeking to extend their registration with the Care Inspectorate to cover the Easter holidays so that they could continue to look after pupils unable – or unwilling – to travel home.
“There are issues to do with the registration of boarding schools over the holiday period as they are not covered to keep kids who cannot go home – or who are not particularly keen to go home,” said Mr Edward. “Those schools are looking to extend their Care Inspectorate registration to cover the holiday period.”
Gordonstoun – an independent school in the North East of Scotland that has 540 pupils, of whom around 370 are boarders – is one of the schools planning to stay open over the Easter break.
A spokeswoman said the school had received a number of requests from families for their children to stay on over the holidays and it had applied for an extension to its Care Inspectorate registration as a result.
The spokeswoman added: “We appreciate that this involves a faster approval process for the Care Inspectorate than normal but we have been reassured that, owing to the special circumstances created by the virus and the priority of safe care for those who cannot travel, that this will be expedited.”
A spokesman for the Care Inspectorate said: "Whenever children are cared for in a residential school setting, that care service must by law be registered with the Care Inspectorate.
"This is to protect children and provide assurance that they will experience good quality care which meets their needs and respects their rights.
"If a school wishes to care for children outwith the times laid out in their registration with us, they must notify the Care Inspectorate.
"We will consider any requests of this kind in the normal way."