BORIS Johnson must let schools ditch face masks in the classroom from May 17 and should not pander to teaching unions, former ministers and parents have warned.
Unions have called for masks in secondary schools to be made mandatory until at least June 21.
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Teaching unions are calling for mandatory masks in classrooms until the end of term[/caption]
A group of unions and scientists wrote to the Government earlier this week to say masks will help prevent negative “consequences” on the health of pupils and parents.
But Boris Johnson has been told not to “pander” to the demands.
Three former Department for Education (DfE) ministers urged the Prime Minister to keep his promise and remove the requirement on May 17 – when step three of the roadmap out of lockdown will come into force.
And Molly Kingsley, a co-founder of the parent campaign group UsForThem, said: “The Government’s duty is to children, not unions. They must not keep pandering to unions that don’t have pupils’ interests at heart.”
Tory MP Tim Loughton, a former children’s minister, said masks in the classroom should be dropped “as a matter of urgency”, The Telegraph reports.
The Government’s duty is to children, not unions. They must not keep pandering to unions that don’t have pupils’ interests at heart.
He added: “At every step of the way, the National Education Union seems to have been at the vanguard of making it more difficult for children to be taught in classrooms and at every step they have made the wrong calls.”
Meanwhile, Robert Halfon, the Conservative chair of the education select committee and a former DfE minister, said the Government must stick to May 17 as the date for ending masks in the classroom “like super glue”.
He told the paper: “If the rest of society is opening up, it seems absolutely clear that the face masks need to go on this day and particularly given the low Covid rate among children.”
Boris Johnson announced in February that secondary school pupils would need to wear face masks indoors where they could not socially distance from March 8.
At the time he said it was a temporary measure – but it was later extended until May 17 at the earliest.
But Chris Skidmore, a Tory MP and DfE minister until last year, said the “blanket national policy” for kids to wear face masks in lessons should be removed on May 17 and only used in certain situations – for example, containing a local outbreak.
The former Tory party leader Iain Duncan Smith also called for face masks to be dropped in lessons, adding: “The evidence now from all the schools is that there have been no more infections than in the rest of society.”
It comes after a joint letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson from the National Education Union alongside five other unions demands that the face mask rule remains in place until the end of term.
The letter claims that face coverings are “an essential part of the wider system of control in schools”.
And schools minister Nick Gibb said last week that he hoped that pupils would no longer have to wear face masks in class in secondary schools and colleges in England from mid-May.
But he said the decision on whether to lift the precautionary measure when the further easing of social contact limits indoors is confirmed will depend on “the data”.
The letter, from five unions representing teachers and support staff, as well as scientists, public health experts, parents, highlights concerns about the risks of developing long Covid.
It warned that an estimated 43,000 children and 114,000 school staff are thought to be suffering from the condition.
The Department for Education has said it expects to remove the requirement on secondary school pupils and staff to wear masks in class as part of the next stage of lifting the lockdown.
Any changes to the policy will be confirmed with one week’s notice following a review of the latest data on infection and vaccination rates.
The letter was sent to Mr Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of Education[/caption]
The joint letter to Mr Williamson says: “To strip these necessary protections, when there are already too few mitigation measures in schools, and when rates of Covid-19 are still significant would have consequences for the health of our children and their parents as well as their communities.”
The letter warns that increasing infection among children puts household members, parents and the wider community at risk.
It came as Office for National Statistics figures suggest fewer secondary school pupils and staff in England tested positive for Covid-19 shortly after schools fully reopened in March compared to the autumn term.
Around 0.33% of pupils and 0.32% of staff in secondary schools tested positive for Covid-19 from mid to late March, compared with 1.22% and 1.64% in December, according to the small study of schools.
Dr Deepti Gurdasani, an epidemiologist at Queen Mary University of London, who is among the signatories to the letter, said: “Scientists, school staff, parents and students are alarmed.
“We do not want a repeat of past mistakes that previously led to new waves, higher deaths, and prolonged lockdowns.
“That’s why we’ve come together to urge the Government to consider the global and national evidence on current infection rates in schools.
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“Face coverings should be continued in schools after May 17, with review prior to the next stage of the road map on June 21, to avoid the risk of new outbreaks.”
A DfE spokeswoman said: “It is expected that face coverings will no longer be required in classrooms at step three of the road map, which will be no earlier than May 17.
“The lifting of further restrictions at step 3 will follow a review of the latest data on infection and vaccination rates, and all other school safety measures, including regular asymptomatic testing, will remain in place.”
Source: The Sun
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