An independent school in North Wales is to stay open this half-term, as students from China avoid returning home amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Staff at Myddelton College, in Denbigh, will work through the half-term and Easter holidays as the school steps up out-of-term provision for pupils who may not be able to return home because of fears over the virus crisis.
The school is home to 40 Chinese boarders who would normally fly home during the school holidays to spend time with loved ones. Current Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) guidance is to avoid all non-essential travel to China, and all travel to Wuhan and Hubei Province, until further notice.
In an official memo from the Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA), school leaders were told that the outbreak is “different from the SARS outbreak in 2003, when many schools had to quarantine pupils”, but added: “It is essential that all schools consider appropriate, proportionate and risk-assessed responses based on the circumstances of the individual school, the situation locally and updated advice from the relevant authorities”.
Myddleton College explained that the decision was “to ensure the health of all its pupils and to reassure parents as well as to safeguard the interests of Year 11 and Year 13 students who are due to take GCSE and A-level equivalent exams this summer.”
As part of its holiday cover, the school has scheduled activities for boarders, including trips to the Lake District, Snowdonia, Portmeirion and Anglesey.
Headmaster Andrew Allman said: “I and a number of staff have cancelled holidays so that we can be here for them and be available to reach out and support them at this difficult time, which naturally includes those who have important exams coming up in the summer.”
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Mr Allman explained that parents in both Britain and China were concerned about the impact the virus could have on the school.
“The reaction of the parents has been twofold because naturally parents of British-based children were concerned about students returning from China after the holidays. They have been reassured and so have the parents of children from China, who will now remain here, and in the case of those taking exams not face disruption to their plans,” he explained.
Martin Wong, 17, from Macau, said: “I really appreciate the school taking this decision because it means we can stay here with our friends and we have the staff here to support us because we wouldn’t be able to do that if we had to stay with our guardians.
“We have been worried about the situation in China but now my parents’ minds are at ease knowing I’m safe and being supported by the school and not at risk of contracting the virus.”
Albert Gao, 18, said: “Normally we would go home to China for the holidays, but the school has arranged a full list of activities and tutorials and our parents are very relieved.
“The speed at which the virus has been escalating for us to be able to remain at the school and remove the risks associated with travelling to and from our home country provides us with great comfort.”
Anna Zhang, 18, said: “We know our parents have been worried about the situation in China and how it would affect us if we had to go back and we are extremely thankful that we are able to stay on here with our friends.”
According to a 2019 Independent Schools Council report, which counts the number of students at UK private schools with parents living overseas, there are over 7,000 students with parents living in mainland China and nearly 5,000 with parents in Hong Kong. The vast majority of those pupils are enrolled at boarding schools.
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