No-one could have ever imagined 2020 to turn out how it has. The virus reached the UK in late January 2020 and turned everyone’s world upside down. Testing started in February. March brought with it the UK governments imposed a stay-at-home order. Since then there have been further restrictions and regional lockdowns. However with all the challenges that Covid-19 keeps throwing at us, look at how far we’ve all come. Particularly in the world of education.

There are now more than 2 million Covid-19 tests each week in the UK with the Contract Tracing App also in use and UK boarding schools, reassuringly, are investing in their own Covid-19 testing machines. More recently paid option, the Test to Release for International Travel scheme, has become available for faster Covid-19 tests. It reduces the self isolation time from 10 days to 5 days, making a big difference to our international families with children at UK schools. Incredibly, after just 10 months, Covid-19 Vaccines began to be rolled out from the 8 December. Funding from public and private cash has been poured into developing it so it was available in record time instead of the standard 10 years.

So how have UK boarding schools been coping in all this? The answer is rapidly, proactively and always with a focus on the children. Year groups and timetables have been overhauled to enable greater socially distancing and teaching within bubbles. The schools are being deep cleaned during times when the majority of students are away. For students that can’t easily travel home pastoral care, accommodation and activities are provided. There are also quarantine areas within their schools which enable students to attend classes remotely whilst isolating after travelling to the UK – along with anyone who becomes ill.

Recognising the deep mental impact of lockdowns and isolation on pupils, boarding schools have been providing counselling services and initiating open dialogue for everyone to share their experiences and feelings. Wellington College, for example, have created a ‘Reintegration and Recovery’ programme for pupils and parents with workshops and individual pastoral tutorials and Cottesmore invited all prep school aged pupils accompanied by parents or guardians to join their ‘Talk It Out’ webinar, encouraging everyone to express their worries.

And what about the students themselves? They’ve had to endure being isolated, remote learning, less sports and drama. Yet they’ve shown amazing resilience. So many students have come up with initiatives. A boy from Scarborough College used the lockdown to photograph the surrounding landscape to make a calendar that raised over £800 for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance. Another example was a Year 13 student from Kingswood School who edited two videos of a song “Dare We?” in memory of the first doctor who died from Covid 19 raising nearly £2,500 for the NHS.

And the teachers? Their creativity, compassion and sheer determination is to be applauded. Covid-19 has significantly added to their workload but the initiatives they have come up to keep everyone engaged and learning throughout are aplenty and will have to wait until our next blog post. It’s enough to say, that after all the challenges that this year has brought, we’re delighted that the teachers at UK boarding schools have made it possible for their world-class education to continue happily and safely. We thank you.