The Broadstairs English Centre language school says it has experienced cancellations and staff are currently working reduced hours due to the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19).
The centre, which has 10 dormitories at its St Peters Park Road base, says the immediate effects of the outbreak are ‘undeniable’ but directors are putting in short and long term plans to protect staff jobs, homestay providers and contractors.
BEC says some Spring bookings have been moved back but has iterated that there is no ‘notion of collapse’ and the school expects to continue flourishing during the second half of year.
‘Responsible and informed position’
In a statement BEC business director Alex McDermott said: “BEC is continuing to monitor the situation and we are taking a dynamic risk assessment approach to this complex and changing picture. We are following advice from Public Health England (PHE) and the National Health Service (NHS), as well as working alongside international agencies and bodies, in order to remain abreast of the situation in our various international markets.
“All staff at BEC are concerned by the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak both locally and across the globe. As a business, we feel very strongly that it is our duty to take a responsible and informed position. Crucially, we need to keep in mind that the issue is in constant development and we are making our decisions on that basis.
“Although we are currently still expecting arrivals as scheduled in the coming months, we have had cancellations. It is undeniable that the immediate effects of this issue are already apparent. The school directors have a responsibility to put short and long-term plans into place in order to protect staff jobs, our homestay providers and contractors.
“In the short term, we have asked staff to accept reduced working hours in all departments. Where appropriate, staff will be offered the chance to take up annual leave.
“In the long term, we look positively towards the second half of 2020. Currently, one of BEC’s owners and school principal, Chris McDermott, is travelling throughout South America in order to generate business for the Autumn.
“Alongside this, we have agreed with some of our agencies to defer our Spring bookings to later in the year, so that students don’t miss out on their Broadstairs experience.
“We would like to dispel any notion of collapse. Broadstairs has long been a place where the language school industry has flourished. We are sure that this will continue, and we send our sincere best wishes to all language schools.
“Like many businesses, we have experienced challenging times. Fortunately, BEC has always had amazing people working for us that have overcome them. Chris and I have always been grateful for their unique dedication and loyalty, which will see the school continue to succeed in the same way.”
Mr McDermott said BEC was ‘saddened’ by the impact of the health issue globally and added: “We are also aware of the community that we are part of. BEC always appreciates its links with local businesses and we are thinking about the impact this issue may have on them.”
The impact on BEC is likely to have a knock on effect for Thanet. The industry generates more than £34 million of student spend in the area and this spend supports almost 1,000 jobs.
A survey, carried out by The South West Research Company Ltd. on behalf of Thanet council, estimated that 43,000 trips to Thanet are made annually by overseas students, accounting for 495,000 visitor nights.
Confirmed Kent Covid-19 cases
There are currently six confirmed coronavirus cases from Kent and Medway. Nationally, as of 9am yesterday (March 9), 24,960 people have been tested, of which 24,641 were confirmed negative and 319 were confirmed as positive. Three patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.
In a message to parents the school said a family member of one of the students has been diagnosed with the virus. The student will self-isolate for 14 days. A member of staff who also had contact with the affected person has taken the same measures.
The school also said: “A small number of students are self-isolating as a precautionary measure due to contact with family or friends who have visited from the affected regions in Northern Italy.”
Head teacher Debra Liddicoat said: “No students have been diagnosed with Coronavirus and therefore we will continue to follow the PHE guidance.”
Another staff member from St Lawrence College in Ramsgate has gone into isolation. The teacher recently returned from an organised Latin trip to the south of Italy.
A school spokesperson said: “We were made aware that a member of staff who had just returned from a trip to southern Italy had developed a dry cough over the weekend. The teacher concerned otherwise feels well, but as a precautionary measure and in line with guidance from Public Health England (PHE) and NHS 111, the teacher is now self-isolating and is arranging to be tested for Covid-19. The teacher has not been into College since the visit to Italy.
“With the number of reported cases in the UK growing daily, we are, of course, aware that this is a worrying time. The welfare of everyone in the SLC community remains our primary concern and we are keeping all parents and staff informed. At the same time, we need to ensure that our response is proportionate. We continue to take Public Health England advice, which is currently to keep the school open, even if there is a confirmed Covid-19 case.”
The children’s outpatient department at QEQM Hospital in Margate was also closed on March 4 after a patient -understood to be a child – presented with the possibility of the Covid-19 (coronavirus) virus.
The hospital has introduced a testing ‘drive through’ method with people urged to stay in their vehicle and call a designated number for further advice.
National updates are published daily at 2pm at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public