LONDON (Fwrd Axis) — COVID-19 is showing no sign of slowing down in England, and as the Government has no imminent plans to lockdown, children in schools will need to wear masks to contain the spread.
The measures will be brought in for secondary school students (years 7-11) from the start of the term until January 26 (when the current restrictions are set to be reviewed).
This news comes after the Office for National Statistics recorded 162,572 COVID-19 cases in the UK over the last 24 hours. I mean, it’s not surprising considering no restrictions were put in place over Christmas. However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson didn’t want to cancel Christmas for the second year in a row.
According to The Department for Education, wearing face coverings in the classroom is the only way to “maximise the number of children in school” for the “maximum amount of time”.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), pleaded that it is “absolutely essential that everything possible” is done to reduce the transmission in classrooms.
“While there are obvious drawbacks to the use of face coverings in classrooms, it is clear that the Omicron variant poses a very significant additional risk to education with the potential for further widespread disruption of schools, colleges, and young people,” he said.
“It is absolutely essential that everything possible is done to reduce transmission and ensure that children remain in school, and we, therefore, support the reintroduction of face coverings in classrooms for students in year 7 and above,” Barton added.
“Pupils are accustomed to their use and we are sure the reintroduction of face coverings in classrooms is something that schools and colleges will take in their stride.”
The somewhat saving grace is that Omicron seems to be a milder variant. However, with 50% of the NHS in England currently off sick with the virus, it’s not looking good for front-line workers who are overstretched as it is.
The current wave of Covid-related absences in workplaces could also mean that some pupils will need to return to home-schooling in the New Year.
Before the Christmas break, over 236,000 pupils were also off sick due to COVID-19.
Barton said this is the “biggest problem” schools now face.
“All of this is a recognition by the government that the spring term will be extremely challenging for schools and colleges,” he said. “While schools and colleges will do their very best to minimise the impact on pupils, as they always do, there is a possibility that this will mean that some classes and year groups have to be sent home for short periods of time to learn remotely.”
Those schools which have been significantly impacted by staff shortages caused by COVID-19 have been advised to postpone their Ofsted inspections.
But Dr. Maru Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, also called on the watchdog to suspend all inspections other than those sparked by safeguarding fears.
“It is hard to see how Ofsted will function without the services of serving headteachers,” she said.
“Rather than limping along, Ofsted should suspend all inspections other than safeguarding concerns.”