A return to boarding at ACS Cobham
Jennifer Overton, Head of Boarding, ACS International School Cobham
In an article for Independent School Parent’s November issue, I discussed the return to boarding at our Junior and Senior boarding houses at ACS Cobham. Since the pandemic forced our campus to become silent earlier in the year, we were excited to welcome students back with a safe return.
The health, safety and wellbeing of our students is a top priority and we spent the summer working to adopt the Boarding School Association (BSA)’s COVID-Safe Charter which, following UK government advice, outlines the key steps required to welcome boarding students back safely during the pandemic. As an international school with a community of over 70 nationalities, our return meant a large number of our boarding students were required to quarantine for two weeks due to the government’s return traveller quarantine rules. We had to plan and put into place all the steps necessary to keep students safe, carefully considering how we could make students (aged 12 – 18) who were away from home feel less isolated during the two-week quarantine, which would be hard on anyone regardless of their age.
The ACS team did an amazing job of pulling together to ensure our boarding students came back securely and happily to their home away from home. Our IT team made sure students could participate in lessons via Zoom and our “Quarantine Co-ordinator” delivered study materials and books to the students so they didn’t miss out on any part of their lessons. House Parents, our student nurse and staff with pastoral experience visited students once a day to make sure they were safe and well. We even had a team of staff, including our CEO, Tim Cagney, who helped take meals to our students while they were self-isolating. The two weeks passed successfully with our students coming out of self-isolation to form their house bubbles.
Now we are back into the usual term time routine, albeit with a few changes and more hand sanitising, the challenges of the past year have shown us what a unique and strong community we have. We do recognise that after living through the past year our students will be more aware of needing to keep in touch with friends and family at home and the support of their boarding family is more important than ever. We have our House Parents available to students 24 hours a day to support them with academic or personal issues and we’ve also taken great care in keeping our boarding activities going to make weekends fun and lively. We recently held an arts and crafts weekend with activities including circus skills and string art to keep our students’ spirits up.
We are now back to enjoying laughter around the school, lessons in classrooms and face-to-face distanced contact between classes. We couldn’t be happier to have our community back and be able to deliver an enriched boarding programme and a family-oriented boarding experience.
You can read my full article in Independent School Parent here: https://issuu.com/chelseamagazines/docs/zzsnaut