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30th Jan 2022

Schools reinstate face mask rules as Covid cases surge

Charlie Herbert

Schools reintroduce face mask rules

The government ended the requirement for face masks in classrooms on January 20

Schools have decided to reinstate face mask rules in response to soaring Covid cases, just days after government guidelines said they were no longer needed in classrooms.

On January 20, secondary school pupils were no longer required to wear face masks in classrooms, and since January 27 they have no longer been compulsory in communal indoor spaces either.

But a number of schools in England have taken it upon themselves to reinstate face mask rules because of outbreaks of infections.

In some areas, including Enfield in north London, Calderdale in West Yorkshire, and Hertfordshire, public health teams are now recommending that masks be temporarily reinstated in schools where cases have surged.

In total, 13 councils have written to parents explaining that pupils should continue to wear face coverings in corridors either until the end of January, until February half-term, or until further notice.

Six more councils have said they support headteachers to make their own decisions about face masks.

And the Guardian reports that a number of secondary schools in London have told parents that pupils should continue to take daily lateral flow tests.

Official figures published by the Department for Education last week show that covid-related pupil absence in England has jumped by 100,000 in two weeks.

A total of 415,000 children – just over five percent of the state school intake – were absent on January 20. This is up from 3.9 percent two weeks before. More than three-quarters of these absentees were as a result of pupils testing positive for covid-19.

Meanwhile nine percent of headteachers and teachers were absent on January 20, with nearly a quarter of state schools having more than 15 percent of teachers and leaders off work.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “It is very likely that we are going to see increased disruption in schools across the next weeks, with cases rising among both primary and secondary pupils.

“The government has acted prematurely in removing face masks and has acted tardily in providing ventilation solutions.”

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