WITH around 40 students heading home to the Falklands over the Christmas break and the danger of Covid-19 a strong possibility, the Department of Education is planning hard with Public Works Department (PWD) and parents to ensure the community and the students are kept safe in quarantine, Director of Education Marie Horton emphasised at the Education Committee meeting on Wednesday.

Mrs Horton said: “Parents are very keen to get those students back, which we absolutely understand after a very complex term in the UK.”

She said the PWD, and Lucille McMullen from the department and herself were communicating with parents focusing on quarantine, “and there is a government offer to support students … and what we are aiming to do is to first of all identify which students need quarantine support and then to work with the students to group them.”

There was no intention to house students individually in quarantine: “We think they need social support. Many of them are very close friends … so we are working with them to help identify which groups will work for them, and aiming to have that done by November 20 to give PWD a short window to allocate housing, and also we can tell families where students are going…
“There are a number of key stakeholders wrapped around that, but in the middle we are trying to protect the student and the community; to make sure the community is as safe as possible but to make sure the students are protected as well.”

She said there would be support for parents and students and if it was communicated, “sensitively and slightly repetitively and folk have got time to plan and prepare, hopefully that will give us good results.”

Mrs Horton said she understood that families would want to see their children because it had been a complicated and worrying time, but it was, “critical for the Islands’ health that everybody follows the quarantine rules, it is pretty hard to say how critical it is.”

She explained: “One of the reasons we are aiming to quarantine students in small groups where they have got strong social networks over many years is to enable them to have the support they would normally reach out to take from their families but can’t do that for a fortnight.”

She also noted that parents would need the support of friends and families too, “So it is about community resilience recognising that these are very unusual times.

She said in advance of this situation the Department of Education was involved in collecting questions on the subject from parents.
When it was asked what the plan was if a student developed Covid-19 symptoms just before they came back, Mrs Horton said if they were in university accommodation they would be allowed to stay. However if they were in Post 16 college accommodation it would be more problematic, however, “we have got some back-up plans and I’m hoping we don’t have to use them to be frank.”