Here we share the latest advice from Benenden School regarding the ongoing coronavirus situation around the world.
12 February Update
As we approach Half Term the situation with coronavirus – now of course called Covid-19 – is changing quite regularly. Our latest guidance is outlined below.
- Anyone – parents, staff, pupils and visitors – returning from China will be required to spend a period of 14 days in the UK before returning to School, and should self-isolate during this time.
- Anyone – parents, staff, pupils and visitors – returning from any of the following countries will be required to spend a period of 14 days in the UK before returning to School, and should self-isolate if they develop symptoms during this time:
- Hong Kong
- Republic of Korea
Staying with Guardians or Others
- This is also true if your child is staying with a guardian or anyone else; please ensure they have not been in any of these countries in the previous 14 days before your daughter returns to School.
- This approach is in place until further notice, and at this moment also includes the Easter holidays.
Girls Who Miss School Days
- We will of course do all we can to support these girls through remote learning arrangements and teachers will use a combination of Teams, OneNote and the Portal to maintain a flow of work. Affected pupils will be sent further details.
Who To Talk To
- For those families affected by these restrictions, please be in touch with your daughter’s Hm if you have not been already.
Visitors to School
- We are ensuring that any visitors, contractors or suppliers to the School have not been to any of the affected regions in the past 14 days.
- Please be reassured that we have contingency plans in place if the outbreak does escalate and we will notify all parents immediately should we need to enact any of these plans.
- Details of our latest messages are also available on the School website here.
- Full details at Public Health England here.
7 February 2020
There have been a number of developments since we last wrote to you; some concerning (such as the continuing rise in cases) but also some positive news (such as a British lab having now fully sequenced the genome of the virus). The Boarding Schools Association (BSA) have updated their advice, including looking ahead to Easter, and therefore Benenden’s position is as follows:
Travelling to Affected Areas
Please be aware that anyone returning from China, Hong Kong or any area of any country where there has been a coronavirus outbreak, have been in contact with anyone with the virus or have symptoms of the virus, will be required to spend a period of 14 days in the UK before returning to School, and should self-isolate during this time. Although this exceeds current Foreign Office advice, it is highly likely that full quarantine requirements will be in place by the time pupils return.
We are aware that a number of other schools have already advised that any parents from China, Hong Kong or any area of any country where there has been a coronavirus outbreak, who wish to visit their daughter over Half Term should consider arriving in the UK this coming weekend. This is so that, should they not develop any symptoms before the end of Half Term, they will have covered the 14-day period advised by the government. We would echo this advice and hope that, where this is feasible for some families, it will provide some reassurance regarding contact with their daughters. We realise that this is very short notice but know that you will appreciate that this is a fluid situation where the advice is evolving all the time.
Given the scope and duration of previous epidemics, such as SARS in 2002-3, it is highly likely that travel restrictions will still be in place, or will have been enhanced, at Easter. Many overseas boarders will wish to stay in the UK over the Easter period, and the School will assist with making arrangements wherever possible.
Travel at Easter to China, Hong Kong or any area of any country where there has been a coronavirus outbreak is not advised and we will require pupils (and parents if they are visiting the School) who have been in these areas to undergo a 14-day period of self-isolation in the UK before returning to School. It may well be necessary to impose restrictions on those who have received visits from people from affected areas, such as when parents have travelled to the UK.
If an overseas parent visits their child for the whole Easter holiday and has displayed no symptoms before the end of the holiday, current health protection guidance indicates that such a person is beyond the incubation period and does not represent a risk.
We do not underestimate the impact on girls of not being able to see their families during the holidays (and indeed the impact on parents and siblings) and so would recommend trying to follow the advice regarding seeing your daughter for the whole of the Easter holiday. Alternatives could include having your daughter come home to China, Hong Kong or any area of any country where there has been a coronavirus outbreak for the first week of Easter and then having her be back in the UK for 14 days before returning to us for the start of the Summer Term.
Everyone has been showing amazing patience and forbearance during this difficult situation and as a School we thank you for your partnership in getting through these next few months.
31 January 2020
Further to previous emails this week, I hope that the need for us to provide almost daily updates will dissipate once the virus outbreak peaks and then starts to drop off. However, at the moment cases are continuing to increase, the first cases have been reported in the UK and the World Health Organisation has declared the virus a Global Emergency so we need to be cautious.
In this vein, we have had to start looking further ahead in the school diary to identify events that could represent a risk in terms of exposure.
We need to extend our current advice, so that parents should avoid attending any School events if they have been in China, Hong Kong or any area of any country where there has been a coronavirus outbreak within the last two weeks, have been in contact with anyone with the virus or have symptoms of the virus. We have taken this same approach with the scholarship events we have been hosting this week, and have put in alternative arrangements for those candidates applying from overseas.
Parents’ Meetings, Drinks Party and Lower School Production
I am conscious that we have the Upper Fifth Parents’ Meeting tomorrow (and I apologise for only sending this today) and that this is an important event for parents of that year group, as well as the Careers Convention. However, our policy remains that we request that parents should avoid attending tomorrow if they have been in China, Hong Kong or any area of any country where there has been a coronavirus outbreak within the last two weeks, have been in contact with anyone with the virus or have symptoms of the virus.
We will therefore be recording the presentations given by our staff and making them available as soon as is practical after the event. For those parents unable to join us we will be offering the option to have a skype or phone call with your daughter’s Tutor in the coming days, who will have collated advice from her subject teachers. We will also extend this provision to the Six One Parents’ Meeting next Saturday.
Please can you confirm to the First Deputy's Office if you will not be attending tomorrow so that we can put these alternative arrangements in place.
Next week there is a Lower Fifth Parents’ Drinks Party planned in London. Under the circumstances it has been decided to postpone this event until later in the year, by which point we would hope to be able to welcome as many of you as possible.
We also have the Junior production, Wickenden Hall, being performed next week by our Fourth and Upper Fourth. As usual, this will be recorded and shared with parents.
Half Term Travel
We are also strengthening the previous advice regarding Half Term travel. If your daughter was planning to return over half term to China, Hong Kong or any area of any country where there has been a coronavirus outbreak, please would you try to keep her in the UK, ideally with a guardian or family member. We would appreciate it if you could confirm with your daughter’s Hm that you have been in touch with her guardian to put arrangements in place.
Should you choose to still take your daughter back to any affected country it is important that you consider that other measures could be put in place by those governments, or the UK government, which could affect when she is able to return to the UK. In addition, any girls who do return to China, Hong Kong or any area of any country where there has been a coronavirus outbreak may not be able to return immediately to School and this will need to be discussed on an individual basis. Similarly, should your family have holiday plans in an affected country, the advice would be to not do so unless that travel is essential.
Although this is a challenging time we have been heartened by offers from a number of parents to host girls who live abroad that are unable to make it home at half term. Once we are aware of any girls who may not be able to stay with guardians over the half term we will help to link them up with families willing to host them.