Schools in ‘very difficult position’ over pupil classroom face mask changes

Face masks will no longer be recommended in secondary school and college classrooms after 17 May.

Face masks will no longer be recommended in secondary school and college classrooms after 17 May. - Credit: PA

A headteachers’ leader said schools have been placed in a “very difficult position” after the Government confirmed pupils will no longer be required to wear face masks in class from next week.

Face coverings for pupils will no longer be recommended in classrooms or communal areas in secondary schools and colleges following Boris Johnson's announcement that more indoor mixing will be allowed to take place from May 17.

MPs and parents have raised concerns about face masks in class disrupting pupils' learning and wellbeing since they were introduced in March.

Face coverings have been recommended in classrooms and communal areas since the return to school in March.

Face coverings have been recommended in classrooms and communal areas since the return to school in March. - Credit: PA

But a group of unions and scientists have written to the Department for Education to say they were "extremely concerned".

Former local head Geoff Barton, now general secretary of the ASCL headteacher union, said: “It is obviously better for communication and learning if masks aren’t required in classrooms, but any decision to this effect must follow the scientific advice, and it is very worrying that the government’s decision appears to contradict the published evidence.

“It seems to us that school and college leaders are once again being placed in a very difficult position because many parents and staff will obviously feel that pupils should continue to wear masks regardless of what the government thinks.”

Children's commissioner Rachel de Souza.

Children's commissioner Rachel de Souza. - Credit: Tom Barnes

Children's commissioner Rachel de Souza, formerly chief executive of Inspiration Trust, made up of 14 academies in Norfolk and Suffolk, welcomed the decision.

"Wearing a mask during lessons has been one of many sacrifices children have made over the last year in our fight against the pandemic and I know they will welcome this latest step towards a return to normal school life," she said.


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Jim Adams, chief executive of Clarion Academy Trust, which oversees Hobart High School in Loddon and Pakefield High, near Lowestoft, said: “Headteachers need to be able to make decisions that are in the best interests of their staff, pupils and the community. 

Jim Adams, joint chair of Educate Norfolk and chief executive of Clarion Academy Trust.

Jim Adams, joint chair of Educate Norfolk and chief executive of Clarion Academy Trust. - Credit: Archant

“Pupils have adapted to wearing face coverings. Initially there were a few concerns but we have not had any issues at all. Overall staff and students have just got on with it.”

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Jess Evans, a Norwich sixth form student, said: “None of us like having to wear them in class so it will be great to not have to. But I think some will continue to wear them around school just because it has become second nature.”

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