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Keep masks in school until half term says National Education Union

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Fears have been raised by parents and teachers about the safety of schoolchildren going into classrooms without wearing masks.

Keep masks in school until half-term, says union (47406445)
Keep masks in school until half-term, says union (47406445)

The government relaxed lockdown measures in England on Monday (May 17) which means pupils are no longer expected to wear face coverings in classrooms and communal areas of schools.

A teacher at Long Road Sixth Form College warned the move was not “sensible” given the new Indian variant of Covid-19 may be 50 per cent more transmissible and said that it would be wise to keep masks until half term.

Niamh Sweeney, a teacher and National Education Union spokesperson at Long Road Sixth Form, said: “We are concerned that the highest number of cases are in the secondary school age group, plus the VOC (Indian variant) is 50 per cent more transmissible. There are two weeks until half term. It would seem sensible to me to keep masks, while we see what impact other relaxations have.

“It seems the government will never learn. School children will need to wear masks on the school bus and then take them off in the classroom. I still don’t know what makes classrooms magic!”

One parent of a child at The Perse School said that classroom safety should not be “delegated” to students. The parent said that if masks are not being enforced in the classroom, it will put her son at risk especially as his ethnicity means he is at greater risk of serious complications from Covid-19.

Marisha Ray said: “I would like to know why my son’s school is delegating his safety to other pupils in his classroom? That is not the way that any school is usually run.”

A spokesperson for The Perse said: “We are following the Department for Education guidance to the letter and our policy is the same as at other schools. There are still a lot of pupils choosing to wear masks in the classroom but that is now their choice. It appears that Mrs Ray’s argument is with government regulations rather than the school itself.”

Education authority Cambridgeshire County Council has urged parents to “be cautious” when sending children into school maskless and asked families to ensure two lateral flow tests a week are performed on each child.

Jonathan Lewis, director of education, said: “The government has made it clear that the pandemic is not yet over. Locally, people are still being admitted to hospital because of Covid 19 or suffering effects of ‘long Covid’ so we must take great care to make sure the virus can’t spiral out of control again. Testing remains essential – for both staff and pupils. It is our key protective measure.”

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