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Felstedians experience a Felsted lockdown

A report by Caolan Wukics, April 2020

Felsted School responded to the decision to close by the Government on Friday 20th March. However, thirteen international students were not able to get home due to restrictions in their home countries, cancelled flights or no flights at all!  Felsted’s duty of care to these students put them at the front of any decision making process by the School, at a stressful time when the students were very concerned for their own families and just wanted to be at home. Felsted would not close their doors to these international full boarding students and leave them with no way of getting home.

The Headmaster decided to make Follyfield House home to the 13 boys and girls who were unable to travel home, ranging from 14 to 18 years of age. Follyfield House, fondly nick-named ‘La Folie Douce’ by the remaining students, is able to accommodate both boys and girls and also has the facility to carry out necessary healthcare provision if needed. Three experienced members of the Felsted staff made up the House staff team; Caolan Wukics, Lewis Mann and Isobel Nicholson.

As the first week of school closure was the last week of term, our Year 10 and 12 students were able to follow the school timetable and complete any work teachers were setting remotely on Google classroom. Our Year 13 students still had work to complete so they were able to maintain a consistent routine throughout the day, also using Google classroom.

Over the past two and a half weeks each day has been split into three different section to give some structure to the day whilst also appreciating that it is also the Easter holidays! Each day incorporates an academic skills session, leisure time and a social period. After a leisurely start with breakfast, students register by 10:30am each day and from then until 1pm they have had the opportunity to ‘upskill’ themselves. One student decided to start learning French, whilst another started to read books recommended by his previous Housemaster. Some of our Lower Sixth girls used this time to continue with school work and start preparation for their UKCAT tests. Another student enrolled herself on an online course which will see her earn a diploma in business before starting university in Rotterdam in September. 

After lunch until supper at 6pm, students have the opportunity to relax and recuperate. We have used this time to make fresh bread, do various arts and crafts, such as origami, play board games or even bake afternoon tea! Students have been able to make use of the onsite facilities, playing hockey, tennis and taking part in a pilates session run by Isobel each afternoon. We have also had the pleasure of being able to go on lovely walks around Felsted with Lewis and his dog, Vinnie. 

Supper is a good opportunity for everyone to share what they have experienced that day and discuss plans for the evening social activity, which involves the whole house. These activities have ranged from board games, directing mini films, quiz nights, a table tennis tournament, movie night, pamper night or ‘the saucepan game’.

Operating as a ‘household’ our aim is to enable the students to continue life as much as normal whilst they are still at school. As the group has reduced in number with students able to secure flights home, we have been able to get to know the students even better, blending numerous cultures, languages and experiences in the process. It has been evident that all the students who we have had stay with us in Follyfield have approached this unprecedented situation with maturity and courage, with some having to travel great distances to go home. We remain in touch with all of these students, as some are coming to the end of their mandatory quarantine period, an experience I am sure has developed their character massively.

This period of time will absolutely be an unforgettable experience in my life. I am really appreciative that I spent part of my lockdown time with these amazing people!

The support team at Felsted have been fantastic during this time, particularly those in the domestic, works and catering teams to ensure we are always felt safe, clean, secure and well fed! Much time by various members of School staff has also been put in trying to secure repatriation flights for these students to return to their home countries. Of the 13 students, only 5 remain now and we hope to have them secured on flights home very soon.

My time in Follies was amazing - the staff made sure we had a really fun time.

Names of Felsted students who lived or who are still living in Follyfield during the lockdown:

M.Elliott, Yr 12 from Bermuda

E. Luo, Yr 12, from China

M. Guo, Yr 12, from China

L. Shi, Yr 12, from China

A. Lang, Yr 12, from Germany

H. Palma, Yr 13, from Italy

D. Paulato, Yr 13, from Italy

D. Russo, Yr 13, from Italy

A. Wagner, Yr 13, from Italy

A. Wardell, Yr 13, from London

J. Taulo, Yr 10, from Malawi

A. Lebedev, Yr 13, from Russia