Supplementary guidance for residential boarding/hostel accommodation in educational facilities
All schools, including residential boarding/hostel accommodation in educational facilities, should have regard to the measures set out in the main school guidance and apply them as appropriate in their specific settings. This supplementary guidance is intended for school care accommodation services, provided for the purpose of learners in attendance at a public, independent or grant-aided school, and consisting of the provision of residential accommodation. For clarity, this includes residential, special and secure accommodation. These include independent boarding school facilities and residence halls provided by local authority secondary schools.
As set out in arrangements for the phased reopening of schools in February/March 2021, from 22 February children in P1-P3 will return to school full time and some young people in the senior phase will return to school to carry out critical practical tasks related to National Qualifications. Children that meet the definitions of vulnerable children (including children and young people with significant additional support needs) and children of key workers will also be in school. All other learners should continue to be provided with an appropriate timetable of remote learning until schools reopen more fully, which will be at the earliest opportunity.
No schools are expected to commence face-to-face teaching (other than for the children and young people described above) until otherwise advised, as a precautionary measure in light of the latest developments in the path of the virus.
Regular reviews of these arrangements will continue to be undertaken, taking into account the latest evidence about the new variant and progress in reducing community transmission levels. Arrangements following reviews will be communicated at the earliest opportunity. It is acknowledged that boarding school pupils, parents, host families and schools need to be able to plan return safely, including for those travelling from other UK nations, or from outside the UK, and further guidance on the safe return to boarding/hostel accommodation will be prepared in advance of fuller reopening and as increased numbers of pupils are expected to return.
This means that the majority of learners who ‘board’ at their school, whether independent, grant aided or local authority provision, should continue not to return to school. Independent schools, like those in state provision, should provide remote learning – including for boarders. Where boarders are the children of key workers, they should look to access local childcare arrangements such as childminders or informal childcare, in line with current guidance.
Where learners are considered to be vulnerable (in line with definitions set out earlier in this guidance), particularly those attending residential special schools, schools should assess how to effectively continue to meet their needs, including, where necessary, through provision of a residential place.
Senior phase learners who are normally boarders in local authority provided residence halls or hostels and who would need to return to this accommodation in order to attend school even on a limited basis for the purpose of practical assessment for the alternative certification model for national qualifications may do so. However, such learners should remain in their residential “bubbles” for the majority of the time and attend school only to support learning in practical subjects that cannot be delivered remotely (as provided for all senior phase learners).
It is considered that given the wider geographical spread of learners who would normally board in independent schools in Scotland, the distance that may need to be travelled, including potentially overseas travel, that this presents a higher risk. Travel to return to boarding houses for those boarders in independent schools in the senior phase for the purpose of completing the learning and teaching of critical practical work in relation to qualifications in 2021 that can only be carried out in school, should therefore be kept to the absolute minimum and only where there is no other alternative in order to achieve qualifications. Schools should firstly consider whether there are options for remote or more local provision. If a return to boarding is necessary for these purposes then schools should follow all relevant mitigations, including minimising overall time in school for this group, and bubble arrangements which are as small as practically possible and would endure through all activities to minimise mixing. Ideally these bubbles would also be with others from a similar area and age specific. Further detailed guidance will be provided on this to aid planning.
We are aware that the recent announcements to the extension of restrictions on travel into Scotland, including the introduction of managed isolation, will need to be considered fully ahead of any international travel taking place for boarding pupils. The details of this policy are still being considered and further information will be given as soon as possible.