Covid-19 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

Reopening school from 8 March

Boarders returning to Mary Ward House on 7 March will undertake a Covid-19 test on arrival, but boarding staff trained in test administration. Then the guidance for either Junior School, or Senior School and Sixth Form will apply.

Our current policies

Information for international students

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

At present, international students from 'red list' countries cannot return to St Mary's School, unless they have a right to reside in the UK (in which case they will follow UK Government guidelines on quarantining on entry to the UK).

Any boarders who cannot return to St Mary's will continue their education, with access to our online remote learning provision, which includes live lessons and a full curriculum. Please be reassured that your daughter’s safety, alongside providing a world-class education 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.

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

In 2020, we expanded our boarding provision, adding 45 newly refurbished bedrooms for Year 12 and 13 girls at The Elms in the grounds of our Senior School, over-looking Cambridge Botanic Gardens. The Elms offers:

  • 45 newly refurbished bedrooms
  • Private single rooms for every girl
  • Modern bathroom facilities
  • A new, state-of-the-art kitchen
  • Laundry facilities
  • Staff accommodation

Boarding at Mary Ward House Years 5 to 11 (age 9 to 16)

  • Boarders in Years 9 to 11 have their own single bedroom
  • Boarders get together, safely, at mealtimes
  • Girls access ample spaces across School for access to music practice, art and sport activities.
  • We continue to enjoy the spacious grounds

Parents on site

Parents, guardians and visitors are not 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

What you need to do if travelling to the UK

Requirements for entering the UK from overseas are subject to change, therefore we advise referring to the current Government Guidelines for the latest information.


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

What happens if a boarder cannot arrive in the UK until after the start of term due to flight restrictions

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.

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.

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. 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 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.