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Everything you need to know about returning to boarding school

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

International students number account for nearly 5% of pupils in British boarding schools, according to the Independent Schools Census in 2020. And whilst many boarding schools have received much praise for their handling of school closures and online learning, this year has been particularly challenging for international boarders and their families. With British schools reopening on March 8th, our Head of Education, Fiona Mckenzie looks at the arrangements for returning to school and the policies in place for students for when they arrive.

Currently the top concern is whether to try to get back for the reopening of schools on 8th March. Whilst all boarding schools are open for boarders to come back, most schools are advising against international boarders returning for the remainder of this term. This is particularly true for pupils coming from schools on red list countries as, unless they have the right to reside, they will not be allowed to enter. Even those with the right to reside will be required to spend 10 days isolating in a designated quarantine hotel with a parent or nominated guardian. For pupils coming from green list countries, schools will make arrangements for them to quarantine in boarding houses at the school.

For international pupils who do return to school in March, there is a strong chance they will be advised to spend the Easter holiday break in the UK to ensure that they can return to school safely for the summer term, without having to repeat the quarantine. This means that guardianship arrangements will need to be in place to accommodate students over the holiday period.

For guidance an advice on guardianship arrangements, contact our Guardianship team at

Pupils residing in countries on the red list, such as the UAE, still have to navigate how they will return for the start of the summer term, in most cases due to begin around 11th April. As things stand, pupils will not be able to fly in directly into the UK, they will have to transit via a ‘green country’ for 10 days prior to arrival in the UK and then quarantine for 10 days on arrival at school. Those with the right to reside will still need to allow 10 days to quarantine in a designated hotel as currently advised, or will need to have been in a green country for 10 days prior to arriving in the UK. Anyone travelling will have to have tested negative for COVID-19 in the 3 days before travelling and they will be expected to test on day 2 and 8 after arrival.

For more information on boarding schools, call our expert consultants now on +97144385276 or email

The British Boarding Schools Association (BSA) is seeking clarification from DfE and DHSC UK to permit 'red list' pupils to complete their quarantine in boarding houses at their schools. The negotiations are ongoing and any updates will be shared with parents directly from the schools.

For those who are unable to return to school in March, rest assured that schools will continue to deliver their lessons on line. International pupils will be able to join their classmates in a hybrid classroom with some learning online and others in person.

Some schools are considering whether pupils can meaningfully return for any part of this term if they cannot engage in the normal communal activities and are cutting short this term and adding an extra week onto the summer term to maximise face to face teaching time.

The most important thing is to keep in close touch with the school and Houseparents running the boarding. They will have up to date information relating to their schools requirements and will be able to advise and guide on the situation as it evolves in the next few weeks.

To hear our Head of Education, Fiona Mckenzie discuss this with Tom Urquhart on Dubai Eye Business Breakfast, click HERE


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