30 November 2021
Thank you to the Greeks, first of all, for their alphabet from which the Covid-19 variants get their name. Places and names of people are sensibly avoided, so we have skipped over Xi and now find ourselves at Omicron. The world is on high alert and so perhaps understandably overreacts to new variants. First reports on Omicron suggest that although more transmissible it is also probably less harmful than previous variants. So far not a single patient with Omicron is reported to have been hospitalised. Covid is the virus that keeps surprising, however, so while we remain hopeful we also remain vigilant.
It is worth bearing in mind that all previous variants of Covid have proved not to be dangerous for normally healthy children. We think the low risk is more than outweighed by the general educational and social benefits of attending our summer course. The spacious, countryside campus at Port Regis is about as safe an academic environment as one is likely to find. The school’s Covid-safe operations have been well tested and we are confident of being able to run a well-regulated, safe summer course for all our pupils and staff.
9 June 2021
Thank you to everyone who responded to our recent proposal to organise a short course for pupils from green and amber list countries this summer.
Unfortunately most parents are not willing to send their child under the current conditions and we therefore have no choice but to cancel our courses this summer.
We are hugely disappointed but do not in any way blame parents. When pupils are being requested to quarantine in the UK and on return to their own countries (as is the case with a number of European countries) the course makes little sense.
I believe we have done everything in our power to find a way through this very difficult situation - see below - but ultimately we have to accept defeat. We would like to thank parents for their patience and goodwill throughout this process.
We will now put all our efforts into planning an absolutely awesome course of fun, friendship and learning for next summer. With that in mind parents have the following options with regard to deposit payments:
1. If you have paid a deposit you can receive a full refund or carry the payment forward to receive our Summer 2022 course at Summer 2021 prices (see https://www.countryschools.co.uk/courses/dates-and-prices).
2. If you have not yet paid your deposit you can do so now to receive our Summer 2022 course at Summer 2021 prices. Please contact us for your payment details.
3. Remember we also offer professional 1:1 online English lessons for children: see https://www.countryschools.co.uk/english-programme/online-english-lessons.
If you have already deferred the place you do not need to tell us again. But if you have not yet expressed a preference, please let us know how you would like to proceed.
Once again we are sorry that things did not work out this summer. Sarah and I send our best wishes to you and your family and very much hope to welcome your child in Summer 2022.
Christopher and Sarah Etchells
Directors, English Country Schools
7 June 2021
A few weeks ago we asked all parents who had booked places on our course this summer if they were inclined to send their child in view of the Covid situation.
On the basis of the replies we decided to limit the course to countries on the UK government green list. On 3 June the UK government updated its green list of countries and we were disappointed to learn that no new countries were added to the list. A course comprised of pupils from green list countries is therefore not possible.
Necessity is the mother of inventions and we are therefore consulting parents to find out if a shorter ‘ECS reunion / taster’ course for pupils from amber list countries is of interest.
Under UK law, international students in a residential boarding school are considered to be one household and can therefore quarantine together. The Port Regis campus provides plenty of space and freedom to allow this while simultaneously providing our core offering of fun, friendship and learning for all pupils, regardless of where they come from. Although pupils will technically be in quarantine, they will not really notice it. We will not be able to offer excursions, but we will compensate for this with English cultural experiences such as afternoon teas and virtual tours. On day 10 of their stay all pupils must take a PCR test and we hope that this can serve as their pre-departure test to enable them to travel back to their home countries.
While at the school we will protect pupils with Covid safety measures such as one-way systems, systematic cleaning of surfaces, regular hand washing and the wearing of face makes by adults (and children if they wish) in public areas. We will further reduce the risk of infection by organising pupils into two separate bubbles, 7 - 13 year olds and 14 - 17 year olds, each with their own staff, residence, lessons, mealtimes and activity programme.
We are confident of being able to offer a safe and worthwhile experience for pupils during their stay, but parents will need to check with the authorities in their country if there are any restrictions on their child travelling to or from The UK.
It is unlikely that pupils who have tested negative before travelling will test positive on day 2 at the school. However if this happens they will need to live in a separate adult-attended isolation area in the school for the rest of their stay (10 days).
Any pupils who test positive on day 10 at the school will remain in the school until they are well enough to return home. We will take care of them and our insurance will meet the cost of this.
We are currently receiving replies and will let all parents know in the next few days if there is sufficient demand for a short course to take place.
28 May 2021
We await 7 June when the UK government will update its green list: see https://inews.co.uk/inews-lifestyle/travel/green-list-review-next-travel-update-when-date-time-amber-countries-changes-reviewed-1016964
6 May 2021
The UK government has announced a traffic light system for foreign travel. No one will be allowed to travel from a 'red' country to the UK. Travellers from 'amber' countries must quarantine for 10 days after arrival. Travellers from 'green' countries require tests but do not need to quarantine.
We recently emailed all parents who have booked a place on the course this summer to ask if they are inclined to send their child this summer or not. Almost all parents who responded would like to send their child if possible, but only if their child does not have to quarantine. This, together with the difficulty of separating ‘green’ pupils from ‘amber’ pupils at the airport and school means that we have decided to accept only green country pupils if we run the course this summer.
The UK government will announce in the next few days which countries are on the green list. We anticipate that this will be only a few countries initially including Portugal, Iceland and Finland. The course is not viable on this basis but we expect other countries to be added as the situation improves.
Whether the course will become viable will depend on when and how many countries join the green list. We will make a final decision at the beginning of June, which we feel is as late as we can leave a decision while still allowing time for parents and others to make the necessary arrangements.
We are sorry we cannot be more certain at this stage but hope you understand our position and appreciate our efforts.
Parents have asked various questions about testing, travel and insurance which we hope the following will answer:
Q: Will my child aged 9 have to take a test?
Travellers aged 11 and over must take a pre-departure test and a test on day 2 of their arrival in the UK. This means that children aged 7 - 10 from green countries will be able to join us this summer without any restrictions.
Q: How will the tests be arranged?
Everyone aged 11 and over must have proof of a negative coronavirus test to travel to the UK. This can be a PCR test or a lateral flow test provided it meets minimum standards: see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-testing-for-people-travelling-to-england Lateral flow tests are significantly cheaper than PCR tests and widely available. The test must be taken in the 3 days before you depart. The results must be in English, French or Spanish. Your test result can be provided as a printed document or as an email or text message you can show on your phone. You can choose to take a test in the place where you start your journey or in another country on your way to England. If your journey to England is long and will involve stopping in another country on the way, you should try to take a test in the country you are travelling through. This is so you take the test in the 3 days before you board the final service to England. For example, if you are driving from Germany and you stop for a few days in Belgium, you should take a test in Belgium. You will need to show the test results when you check in to travel or board your plane, train or ferry. You may also be asked to show them when you arrive.
For further information please see
Passenger Locator Form
Everyone travelling to England must also complete a free Passenger Locator Form on the web 48 hours before arriving in the UK: see https://www.gov.uk/provide-journey-contact-details-before-travel-uk
At the airport
Q: “Bearing in mind that you recommend sending the kids on their own, we found out that they'd probably have to bridge 3-4 hours until the bus departs from Heathrow and we found among the ECS travel info that you can provide or connect us with a place they could stay at the airport during that time. Can you help us with that please?”
We will meet children on arrival and remove them from the airport as quickly as possible to a place where they can safely gather with their fellow pupils from other green countries while awaiting their transfer to the school.
Day 2 test
After arrival in the UK everyone who has travelled from a Green list country must take a government approved PCR test on day 2 of their stay. The details of this have not yet been published but we anticipate that these tests will be booked and paid for in advance by parents using a UK-government-approved list. The tests will be carried out under our supervision in the school.
During the course
Q: Do you have any agreement with medical authorities to follow health of the pupils during their stay with you?
We will follow official government advice at all times. We will have a stock of lateral flow tests which we will use if any student displays symptoms of concern during the course. We will have access to all the usual local medical services including a doctor on 24-hour call, a local medical centre and general hospital.
If a child tests positive for Covid-19 during the course they will need to isolate from other pupils for 10 days. We have a staffed isolation area in the school with TV, books and games and will make everything as comfortable and pleasant for the child as possible.
Q: Will all instructors and other personnel at the school be vaccinated?
We will advise all staff in contact with pupils to be vaccinated but under UK law we cannot require this. Please be aware that the risk to normally healthy children from Covid-19 is minimal.
Before travelling home
There is no UK government requirement for anyone to have a pre-departure test, but the country the child is travelling back to may require a test. we will have a stock of lateral flow tests in the school which will be available at cost to pupils who need a test. We will try to find out what each country requires, but parents will ultimately be responsible for informing us about this.
Q: Will Covid be covered by the school health insurance in case my child catches it in the UK?
Our insurance policy will not cover cancellation or course fee claims which arise as a result of Covid-19 but will cover medical expenses arising from Covid-19, including additional costs associated with the illness where necessary - additional food/accommodation/flight costs etc.
If a pupil is forced to remain in the UK past their original return date, the insurers will consider cover under the Section 3C – Medical Expenses ‘Supplementary travel and accommodation expenses’. The student will need to provide evidence of a positive C19 result or close contact with someone who has a positive result.
If you have additional questions that are not answered by the above, please email us and we will be happy to assist.
Christopher & Sarah Etchells
Directors, English Country Schools
The UK government has announced that when international travel resumes a red-amber-green ‘traffic light’ system will be used, with arrivals from ‘green’ countries able to freely enter the UK. The provisional start date is May 17th.
The new green category will have no isolation requirements, but pre-departure and post-arrival Covid tests will be required.
Amber-designated countries will require a 10-day isolation period on arrival in the UK but this can be reduced to 5 days with an additional test. Arrival from red list countries will be banned.
The government has said that it will look to establish arrangements with other countries and international organisations to establish mutual recognition of vaccination certificates, holding out some hope of alignment with the European Commission’s recently proposed ‘Digital Green Certificate’.
Here at ECS we note that nearly all countries from which our pupils travel are green and amber countries. The general situation appears to be improving in those countries. However, there is still uncertainty both at home and abroad so we wait until May 17th to re-assess the situation.
If you have already booked a place, we thank you for your patience. If you have not yet booked, you can do so in confidence: we offer a money-back guarantee if we cancel the course or if your child is unable to travel due to official government restrictions in your country. Book here. For regular Covid-19 updates please see our page at https://www.countryschools.co.uk/more-info/covid-19
8 April 2021
The uncertainty over foreign travel continues. In all countries there is contradictory information over possible scenarios in July and August. We await clarification from the UK government and in the meantime advise against making irreversible travel arrangements. We are still hoping and planning to run our course this summer. If you have already booked a place, please be optimistic and patient. If you have not yet booked, you can do so in confidence: we offer a money-back guarantee if we have to cancel the course or if your child is unable to travel due to official government restrictions in your country.Book here
Honestly, Covid-19 is an emotional roller coaster! Just a few days ago we were feeling cautiously optimistic with the rollout of vaccines in the UK and - we hoped - around the world. Almost the next day the UK government announced a ban on all travel for UK citizens until July.
Faced with a situation in which none of us know quite what the situation will be in four weeks, let alone four months, we promise to refund any payment you have made (minus any unavoidable bank charges) if we have to cancel the course or if the child is unable to attend due to official Covid restrictions at home or in the UK. We will be generous in our interpretation of this. If the regulations effectively make it impossible for a child to attend - for example if proof of Covid vaccination is required but a child does not have this - we will offer a full refund (minus any unavoidable bank charges) or you can choose to carry the place forward to the following summer.
So we urge you to keep your child's place and suggest delaying the purchase of flights until we have a clearer picture of how things are progressing and what the requirements will be for travel.
Meanwhile, let's all keep our fingers crossed for continued progress while we prepare a warm welcome for those lucky pupils who are able to join us this summer.
Chris & Sarah Etchells
Spring has arrived and with it a renewed feeling of optimism here in the UK. Sarah and I (Directors of ECS) had our first vaccinations recently with no side effects. Nearly 20 million adults in the UK have been vaccinated for Covid-19. Under current trends all adults will have been offered the vaccine by the summer. All UK restrictions are due to end on 21 June.
It is difficult to believe that just a few weeks ago we were in the middle of a pandemic disaster. Vaccinations have been a complete game changer. While we appreciate the situation remains challenging in some countries, our experience is that it is surprising how quickly things can improve. We have started to receive a few new bookings for the summer, indicating a gradual return of confidence.
Parents know that the risk to normally healthy children from Covid-19 is minimal. For us in running a summer school the problem is mainly logistic. Port Regis is already back at school. The spacious, countryside campus is about as safe an academic environment as one is likely to find. The school’s Covid-safe operations will have been well tested by the summer and we are confident of being able to run a well-regulated, safe summer course for all our pupils and staff. You can read our recently updated policy here.
At the time of writing therefore we intend to run our course this summer. Numbers will almost certainly be lower than usual; our welcome and attention for those who are able to attend will be all the greater. We will continue to review the position in the light of the changing situation but our feeling overall is that things are likely to continue progressing over the next four months. Young people have had a hard time during the crisis. We truly hope that ECS will be able to offer a wonderful and much needed change of scene for them, an opportunity to forget the difficult times we have all been through and for them to get on with real life and learning.
As of 4 January 2021 the UK is returning to a national lockdown to control the number of Coronavirus cases. We welcome this in helping the nation to get ahead of the virus - and this time we have the promise of vaccines to help us finally overcome this problem.
We have every intention of running our courses in July and August 2021. Parents can book in confidence as we are offering a money-back guarantee: we will refund all payments minus any bank charges for pupils who are unable to attend due to official government Covid-19 restrictions in their own country or the UK.
Meanwhile we are using the time to prepare for a much better post-Covid future as a member of Green Standard Schools. You can read more about that here.
Summer 2020 was the first summer in over thirty years when - due to Covid-19 - we had to cancel our courses. Now, with the promise of new vaccines and a gradually improving situation, we are hoping to fully reopen for Summer 2021.
Young people in particular have had a hard time during the crisis, often confined to home, unable to mix with their peers at school or get outside to play and meet friends. ECS in Summer 2021 will offer a wonderful and much needed change of scene and an opportunity for them to engage once again with real life. The extensive countryside campus at Port Regis provides a healthy green backdrop where they will be able to experience the joy of reuniting and making new friendships with their peers from around the world. Freed from electronic screens they will once again be able to enjoy the profound physical experience of real learning, fun and friendship.
During closure we have been busy following government and industry COVID-19 guidelines to enable us to reopen. We have been awarded the industry standard ‘Good to Go’ mark that you can see on this page. In addition, we have helped to create a Covid-19 checklist for Young Learner schools that you can find here. We are fortunate that our existing division of pupils into three separate age groups provides three natural ‘bubbles’ that we can maintain without changing the course too much. As the Covid-19 situation improves you can be sure we will continue to revise and update our procedures in order to provide the best possible balance of enjoyment, freedom and safety for our pupils.
During Covid we have also been developing our expertise in delivering online services. We are now Zoom aficionados and have been pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable and effective our 1:1 online teaching has proved. We have extended our Trinity GESE provision to include online training, are planning a ‘Fun with English’ Easter offering and will be organising Zoom meetings for parents and pupils in the different age groups before the course begins, to say hello, learn more about the school and ask any questions.
In these unprecedented times we have no idea how popular our courses will be in Summer 2021. We have made a good start with many pupils deferring from 2020, for which many thanks. Our feeling is that there is considerable pent-up demand around the world, but much will depend on the situation in individual countries. We promise that if you book a place for Summer 2021 and your child is unable to attend due to Covid-19 we will fully refund any payment you have made (minus any bank charges). So if you have not yet booked you can go ahead and book now if you wish to be certain of a place.
If however the school turns out to be less full than usual, this means our welcome to those who attend will be all the greater. And having ‘rested’ for longer than we ever wanted, we will return refreshed, stronger and more determined than ever to make ECS Summer 2021 the best summer of their life for everyone who attends.
With very best wishes,
Christopher & Sarah Etchells
ECS, November 2020