Do pupils need to wear face masks in school?

Sajid Javid says we need to 'learn to live with Covid'

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Plan B measures were scrapped by the Prime Minister this week as Covid cases drop off throughout the UK. Face masks are no longer required in public indoor places, and ‘vaccine passports’ have been scrapped for large events and certain venues.

Mr Johnson told MPs on Wednesday that the advice for classrooms would be withdrawn the next day, while the advice to wear masks in communal areas would end on January, 27 along with other plan B measures.

Schools have had face mask rules in place since July 2020, after the first lockdown.

But England’s schools are in a more contentious predicament under the new rules.

Schools are included in the changes announced by the Prime Minister this week – but headteachers are taking the matter into their own hands due to the continued spread of the Omicron variant.

READ MORE: Covid warning: Omicron sub-variant ‘under investigation’ in UK

According to data from the UK Health Security Agency, the rate of new cases of coronavirus among primary school pupils in England has reached record levels.

The figures show 1,936 cases per 100,000 five to nine-year-olds in the week to January 16, up a staggering 41 percent from the previous week.

Headteachers have said the announcement the government would no longer advise wearing masks in classrooms took them by surprise and gave them no opportunity to consult parents or local authorities.

As a result, many schools are planning to keep Covid measures like wearing face masks in place for the foreseeable future.

Schools North East, a network in the north-east of England, said 80 percent of schools in the region planned to keep Covid-related measures, with many secondary schools retaining face masks in classrooms and communal areas.

Chris Zarraga, the director of Schools North East, said: “Schools are still facing real challenges in getting staff cover, increasing staff workload and stress and impacting negatively on wellbeing.

“There are serious concerns for schools, with local pictures often radically different from the national picture.”

A number of schools across England are reporting severe staff shortages due to illness and infection with the virus.

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Some schools have even been asking parents to do daily lateral flow tests with their children before coming to school.

Helmshore primary school in Rossendale, Lancashire, has asked parents to give their children lateral flow tests every day, after six staff members and 26 pupils at the school tested positive.

In Cheltenham, Greatfield Park primary school has also asked parents to do daily tests.

Ministers have defended the decision due to falling case numbers.

Health secretary Sajid Javid said: “The government’s job is to take a balanced and proportionate decision, in this case balanced against the best interests of children.

“It is harder to teach children and it will have an impact on their education if they are required to wear masks.”

General Secretary of the Teachers’ Union Dr Patrick Roach said earlier this month: “It is very concerning that our members are telling us that staff absences due to COVID-19 are having serious impacts on teaching and learning.

“Higher rates of staff absence are making a very challenging situation much worse for schools struggling to maintain appropriate staffing levels without disrupting pupils’ education.

“Whilst the start of term saw around one in 10 teachers absent due to Coronavirus, these numbers are likely to increase in the absence of effective measures to ensure Covid-safety in classrooms.”

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