Coronavirus: Girls' schools urge against travel to Asia

A leading association of private girls' schools has warned pupils from overseas not to travel during half term

Tes Reporter

containing the coronavirus outbreak: schools urge against travel

Private schools are being urged to advise their overseas pupils to "consider not travelling" during half term, owing to fears over the spread of coronavirus.

The Girls' Schools Association (GSA), which represents a group of fee-paying girls' schools, recommended that staff advise against all travel to South-East Asia during half term.

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The GSA also said schools should prepare for the possibility of "quarantine procedures" for the return of students who did travel.

This follows the latest advice from the Boarding Schools' Association (BSA), which said "appropriate arrangements" should be put in place to accommodate pupils over the February break.

A GSA spokeswoman said: "We have recommended that our schools advise parents, carers and guardians of any pupils proposing to travel to South-East Asia over February half term to consider not travelling.

"We have also advised schools that, where possible, they should help to make suitable alternative arrangements with guardians.

"In the case of students who decide to travel, we have recommended that schools advise them and their families that protective measures could well be in place before they return and that they prepare for the possibility of quarantine procedures."

In its guidance, the BSA says that schools must also consider the risk of any visits by parents or carers, avoiding "unnecessary restrictions" on anyone beyond the 14-day incubation period.

It also states that schools must ensure that boarders are protected both in and outside of school, following reports of children being targeted on the basis of their ethnicity.

China sends more pupils to UK fee-paying schools than any other country.

The latest figures show that Chinese children make up around one in six of all international students at these schools.

Haberdashers' Monmouth Schools said that their Chinese students would not be returning home in the half term break, which is usually one week in the second half of February.

Principal James Murphy-O'Connor said boarders from China would remain at the group of five schools in Wales.

"As a family of schools, we have been monitoring the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China very closely," he said.

"We are supporting all our overseas children and parents at this difficult time, when there is still so much uncertainty about possible international travel restrictions to contain the spread of the virus.

"In light of the latest advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, our boarders from China will stay in the UK with their guardians over half term.

"Our primary concern is the health and welfare of each and every member of the school and the wider local community."

Students at the school will stay with guardians in the UK, or at a boarding house, where the school says appropriate staff will be in place.

Wilsons, a UK law firm that specialises in advising independent schools offered similar advice, suggesting that schools should make sure overseas pupils and their families "understand the risks" of travelling to the region.

Vicky Wilson, senior associate in the education practice at Wilsons, said that every school must address coronavirus this week.

"The Foreign Office has advised people in the UK to avoid all but essential travel to China and independent schools must reinforce that to pupils and their families," she said.

"Missing a family reunion is hard on everyone but it is preferable to pupils risking their education being seriously disrupted by coronavirus and its fallout."

Figures from the Independent Schools Council (ISC) show that, as of January last year, there were 9,585 pupils from mainland China at its member schools, out of a total of 55,280 international students.

This is based on data from 1,364 ISC schools.

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