Parents urged to support return of face masks in school classrooms

Pupils wearing masks

Masks will return inside classrooms to help reduce the spread of the Omicron variant. - Credit: PA

Parents have been encouraged to support schools over the reintroduction of face masks in classrooms whatever their personal views on their effectiveness. 

Secondary school students in Norfolk will have to wear masks once again when they return for the new term on Wednesday to help reduce the spread of the Omicron variant.

Pupils wear protective face masks

The government said the recommendation for masks secondary schools and colleges will be temporary and will be in force until January 26. - Credit: PA

The government said the recommendation for secondary schools and colleges will be temporary and will be in force until January 26, when 'Plan B' Covid measures are due to be reviewed.

But Jim Adams, chief executive of the Clarion Academy Trust, whose schools include Hobart High School in Loddon, said it was frustrating that schools were once again “being updated by the media. We deserve much better than this”.

Jim Adams, chief executive of the Clarion Academy Trust and co-chair of Educate Norfolk. Picture: Ni

Jim Adams, chief executive of the Clarion Academy Trust and co-chair of Educate Norfolk. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

In a tweet he urged parents to help schools to introduce the change. “Whether you agree with this guidance or not, school leaders are not medical or public health experts. They will follow the guidance,” he said.

Face masks are already recommended in communal areas for older students and staff and some schools had measures in place throughout the autumn term. 

East Coast College, which has campuses in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, required face coverings be worn by students, staff and visitors upon entry to all buildings as well as in corridors, stairwells and school libraries.

S5 and S6 pupils at St Columba's High School in Gourock, Inverclyde, wear protective face masks duri

Redbridge Council said it will support schools that decide to switch to online learning as a result of large staff and pupil absences from Covid-19 cases. - Credit: PA

However Robert Halfon, chairman of the House of Commons education select committee, said he is worried about a possible negative impact of making masks compulsory once again.

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Speaking on Times Radio, the Conservative MP said: "I do worry about the mask policy. The children's minister came to my committee and said there was very limited evidence as to the efficacy of masks in educational settings.”

Secondary school pupils wearing face masks.

Secondary school pupils will face stricter face mask wearing rules on their return to school. - Credit: PA

Teaching unions said schools and colleges would take the extension of masks back into classrooms “in their stride”, but staff absences pose the bigger challenge to keeping pupils in lessons.

Former local head Geoff Barton, who is now general secretary of the ASCL headteacher union, said: “All of this is a recognition by the government that the spring term will be extremely challenging for schools and colleges. 

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL headteacher union.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL headteacher union. - Credit: Archant

“The biggest problem they face is the likelihood of high levels of staff absence caused by the prevalence of the Omicron variant. 

“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.”

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