International pupils attending boarding schools in England will be allowed to self-isolate at their school rather than in a hotel following pressure from parents and headteachers.
Children arriving from countries on the Government’s red list to return to school in England will not have to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days, according to Department for Education (DfE) guidance.
But it says pupils will only be allowed to quarantine at their school if they travel from the airport in pre-arranged private transport organised by the school.
International students must then quarantine in “physically self-contained” accommodation at the school.
The change to the rules came after the Boarding Schools Association (BSA) wrote to the Government to warn that hotel quarantine arrangements pose “a significant safeguarding risk”.
The letter warned rules around self-isolation for travellers – which came into effect on February 15 – could lead to minors quarantining in hotel rooms alone, or with adults they do not know.
Last month, parents of children travelling back to school in the UK pleaded with the Government to rethink the rules.
The Government previously said parents should quarantine with their children in a hotel, and if pupils could not be accompanied by family then they were advised not to travel.
But DfE guidance, published just days before schools reopen in England, now says pupils can return directly to their boarding school if a series of conditions are met.
The advice says: “The Secretary of State has determined that the transport must meet the following conditions: it must be a motor vehicle, it cannot be public transport and it must be transport that has been pre-arranged by the school or college in England at which the student or pupil is due to attend as a student or pupil on their arrival in England.
“The Secretary of State has determined that in the case of boarding school students, the quarantine is to take place in accommodation that comprises of residential facilities organised by the school or college in England that the pupil or student (as the case may be) is due to attend as a pupil or student on their arrival in England.
“The accommodation must constitute separate accommodation, meaning it must be accommodation that is physically self-contained.”
The BSA estimates that up to 3,000 students are currently in red-list countries and need to travel back to England for school.
Robin Fletcher, chief executive of the BSA, which represents 500 schools across the UK, said: “This is excellent news for our member schools and we’re grateful to the Department for Education for its support.
“Boarding schools are self-contained bubbles – our experience of the previous lockdown tells us that any Covid cases can be managed carefully, limiting the risk of cases spreading to an absolute minimum.
“It also means students are being cared for and supported by schools’ pastoral staff, ensuring their safety and wellbeing.
“We hope the same arrangements can be put in place for students in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and we will be continuing our efforts for this to happen.”
Independent Schools Council chief executive Julie Robinson said: “We are delighted that this guidance enables all international boarders to return to school if they are able to, and appreciate the strict conditions imposed on boarding houses to make it possible.”