COVID-19 and Boarding

Keeping boarders safe

The measures we are taking to protect our boarders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Protecting St Mary's boarders and staff

We understand that our boarding famillies have specific concerns in relation to returning to boarding in the UK, during this global pandemic.

Please be reassured that your daughter’s safety, alongside providing a world class education and a home from home, will always be our top priority.

If you have any questions, concerns or indeed further suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact the Head of Boarding.

New boarding at The Elms for Year 12 and 13 (age 16 to 18)

  • From September 2020, Year 12 and 13 girls will board in The Elms, an historic building offering modern amenitiies, set in the grounds of our Senior School, over-looking Cambridge Botanic Gardens. Each girl will have their own private single room.
  • The Elms will offer:
    • 45 newly refurbished bedrooms
    • Modern bathroom facilities
    • A new, state-of-the-art kitchen
    • Laundry facilities
    • Staff accommodation

Boarding for Years 7 to 11 (age 11 to 16)

  • Girls will remain in Mary Ward House
  • Boarders in Years 9 to 11 will have their own single bedroom
  • Boarders will get together, safely, at meal times
  • Girls will make use of ample spaces across School for access to music practice, art and sport activities.
  • We will continue to enjoy the spacious grounds

Parents on site

Parents, guardians and visitors will not be allowed to enter Mary Ward House or The Elms to reduce the risk to our community whilst social distancing measures continue to be enforced by the UK government.

FAQs about Covid-19 and boarding

Has the School signed up to the BSA’s COVID-SAFE Charter?

We are a member of the UK’s BSA (Boarding Schools’ Association). The BSA has created a co-ordinated action to reassure pupils and parents that UK boarding schools take their responsibilities very seriously and that boarding is a safe environment to which pupils can return.

The Covid-Safe Charter is a voluntary code to which we are adhering and which, we hope, gives confidence that St Mary’s School, Cambridge is following all appropriate measures to ensure that our boarding environment is a safe one for pupils.

COVID-Safe Charter

Will the School provide a quarantine facility?

From 8 June 2020, the UK government is requiring all residents and visitors entering the UK to quarantine for 14 days. More information

International boarders should arrive at least 14 days prior to the start of term (Thursday 3 September) so that they may quarantine.

  • New boarders’ induction begins on Tuesday 1 September 2020
  • Returning boarders move into their accommodation on Wednesday 2 September 2020
  • The school term begins on Thursday 3 September 2020.

We are delighted to announce that we will be offering all boarders the opportunity to quarantine at St Mary’s School, Cambridge from Tuesday 18 August 2020. If a boarder is unable to stay with her appointed guardian for any reason, she may stay in the School’s boarding accommodation at no extra charge.

If a boarder quarantines at St Mary’s School, she may be collected from the airport in school minibuses driven by St Mary’s staff. The cost will be £150 per boarder.

On arrival in the UK, boarders will be taken directly to either Mary Ward House (Y7-11) or The Elms (Y12 and 13) where boarders in Years 9-13 will have their own single bedroom. Where possible, each boarder will be assigned the bedroom which will be hers for the whole academic year, so she will have plenty of time to unpack and settle in, prior to the start of term on 3 September.

  • As is usual in the boarding accommodation, Wi-fi will be available so that girls can keep in touch with family and friends during this period.
  • Boarders will be cared for 24 hours a day by Boarding staff.
  • If you (or a guardian) are bringing your daughter to the School prior to the start of term, we kindly request you do not enter Mary Ward House or The Elms and that if you are accompanying your daughter, you drop her and her luggage in the grounds of Mary Ward House or outside The Elms. Please note there is no parking at The Elms, it is drop-off only. Parking is available at Mary Ward House, a 10 minute walk from The Elms.

What happens if a boarder cannot arrive in the UK until after the start of term due to flight restrictions e.g. October 2020?

Obviously we would want all boarders to start school at the beginning of term so they do not miss important information as well as learning time, however if this is not possible, we ask that boarders arrive as soon as possible after 3 September.

Face to face class teaching will take place from 3 September, however if a late start to the term cannot be avoided, online learning provision will be made available.

What plans are there for social distancing in boarding?

Boarders will be placed in 'social bubbles', a concept formulated by the UK government. Each 'bubble' is rather like a family unit and will consist of small groups of boarders from the same year group who will: walk to/from school together; eat together; cook together at the weekend if desired and generally socialise with each other. The mixing of the 'social bubbles' will be prohibited until social distancing restrictions are eased in the UK.

  • Boarders in years 7 and 8 will continue to live in dorms at Mary Ward House. Each year group will constitute one 'social bubble'.
  • Boarders in years 9-11 will have their own single bedroom at Mary Ward House. They will live on a corridor with boarders from their year group, in bedrooms next to boarders from their 'social bubble'.
  • Boarders in years 12 and 13 will live in single bedrooms in The Elms, the accommodation above the Senior School.
  • Where possible, a bathroom will be designated to each 'social bubble' and no other boarders will be permitted to use it.
  • All meals will be eaten in the Senior School's dining areas, allowing for each 'social bubble' to eat at a safe distance from another 'bubble'.
  • A one-way system will be introduced at both Mary Ward House and in The Elms.

Will boarders be allowed to wear a face mask or covering?

At this time, it is not a UK government requirement for school pupils to wear face masks or face coverings.

  • We welcome Boarders wearing a face covering or mask during the school day.
  • It is entirely your choice should you wish your daughter to wear a face mask or covering when in her boarding accommodation as well as when outside in public spaces.
  • We ask families to provide the face mask or covering for your daughter.

What steps are being taken to ensure the boarding accommodation is hygienic?

All boarding accommodation (including bathrooms) will be thoroughly cleaned every day, during the week to ensure high levels of cleanliness and reduce the risk of infection.

  • All boarders will be required to remove their shoes and sanitise their hands on entering their boarding accommodation.
  • Mobile hand wash stations will be installed at all main entrances, including boarding entrances, for students to wash their hands with soap and warm water at a temperature of 42C.
  • Signs reminding boarders to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, will be clearly displayed in toilet areas in boarding.
  • World Health Organisation (WHO) and National Health Service (NHS) approved hand sanitiser will be in place across the school.
  • Regular sanitisation of key touchpoints across the school will be routinely carried out at regular intervals using appropriate cleaning agents.
  • Appropriate disinfectant wipes will be available to clean IT equipment such as keyboards and used for all purposes across the school when needed.

Will boarders be tested for Covid-19 while at school?

Everyone in the UK is eligible to request a test should they display symptoms of COVID-19. All boarders or day girls who display symptoms of COVID-19 will be tested - either at one of the local drive-through testing centres, or using a home test kit, and asked to isolate until the result has come back.

Testing will be carried out using the UK Government's tests that are approved by Public Health England for their accuracy and reliability. Shortly the UK Government has advised it will be rolling out their antibody testing which will help to let girls know if they have already had the virus. However currently scientists are not able to confirm whether that will provide long-term immunity. More information

All boarders will be part of the UK government's 'track and trace' scheme. A mobile app will shortly be deployed as part of this scheme. Currently tracers are contacting individuals who have been in close contact with someone who has had a positive test for COVID-19, and they are then asked to self-isolate.

We can offer a third-party solution for testing, however please be aware the results from some private testing companies have not been confirmed to be 100% accurate. Any fee for such a test would need to be met by you, the parents.

What will happen if a boarder falls ill with Covid-19 while at school?

  • Each boarder’s temperature will be checked, twice daily.
  • If any boarder displays symptoms of COVID-19, they will be quarantined in dedicated isolation areas, at each site. They will be cared for by House staff and health professionals will be available to offer remote support.
  • School nurses are available Monday to Friday during the school day to care for ill boarders.
  • Boarding staff will care for ill boarders overnight and at the weekend. The Head of Boarding and the Headmistress live on site full-time, during term time.
  • The school GP (doctor) holds a surgery for the boarders every Tuesday before school and is available outside this time for appointments.
  • The world class Addenbrookes Hospital is 5 minutes’ drive from the school.

What happens if my daughter is subject to racist abuse in light of Covid-19?

Any incidents of racism and/or bullying would be taken very seriously and dealt with in line with our Behaviour, Discipline and Exclusions Policy and our Anti-bullying policy.




Will the boarding houses remain open during Exeats and at October half-term?

St Mary’s School, Cambridge does not have Exeat weekends.

Yes, the boarding accommodation will remain open for those boarders who cannot return home or stay with their guardian at October half-term.