Social distancing 'impossible' in boarding schools

Protective measures against coronavirus transmission will be 'very difficult' in boarding schools, says union

Catherine Lough

Coronavirus: Boarding schools have asked the government to let international students quarantine in their accommodation, rather than in hotels

Teachers' leaders have said it will be "nigh impossible" for social distancing to be observed within boarding schools when they reopen.

Andrew Morris, assistant general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said that social distancing in boarding schools will be "very difficult".

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"Boarding schools are worried about social distancing.  As hard as it is in an ordinary school, it is nigh impossible in an independent boarding school which might have four pupils aged 7 in a bedroom spending long periods of time together socialising and relaxing – socially distancing is going to be very difficult," he said.

Mr Morris also said the economic future of boarding schools was uncertain, as it was unclear whether the 60,000 overseas pupils in the sector would return.

"Clearly, schools will have availed themselves of the job protection scheme which is a major mitigation against some of the losses. The worry is more the long-term economic impact and the issue of 60,000 overseas pupils.  So much is unknown, given that everything’s so fast-moving," he said.

Previously, Tes reported that some boarding schools reliant on overseas challenges could face particular difficulties. 

"I have spoken to agents in Hong Kong and China, and they are pretty confident that the situation will recover, but not until vaccination has been administered to the population and the health crisis is over," one senior figure in the sector told Tes. 

Robin Fletcher, the chief executive of the Boarding Schools Association, said: “Guidance for England and Scotland confirms that boarding houses can be treated as households.

"In planning for reopening boarding schools will obviously risk assess every building to ensure students and staff are as safe and protected as possible.”

The Department for Education guidance has said that mainstream boarding schools fall under the government's household isolation policy, but that "institutions will need to decide if they are single or multiple households depending on their layout".

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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