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21 Jan, 2022 09:39

Schools defy Johnson’s Covid relaxations

Over 100 UK headteachers have insisted masks must still be worn
Schools defy Johnson’s Covid relaxations

Hundreds of British schools are set to defy Prime Minister Boris Johnson after he announced on Wednesday that masks will no longer be needed in schools, when Plan B rules elapse next week, according to reports in British media.

More than 100 headteachers have already written to parents to inform them that their children will still be required to wear facemasks in the classrooms.

Several schools said the policy would be in place “until further notice,” citing high regional levels of Covid-19; coronavirus prevalence remains high in England’s north east and north west.

Other schools said wearing masks would lead to fewer students and teachers falling ill with the virus and thus to preventing more obstructions to their education.

Some schools said they would carry out an internal risk assessment before making a decision on whether to drop obligatory mask usage. 

On Thursday, Nadhim Zahawi, the Education Secretary said that “all schools” should get rid of masks to ensure that all children can “enjoy a normal experience” in the classroom.

He added that the Department for Education (DfE) would contact headteachers that defy the prime minister’s ruling and explain why masks must go.

“This applies to all schools - and if required local teams from DfE would work with individual schools to support them in implementing the guidance,” he stated.

Officials have already written to teachers explaining that masks had only been introduced as a “temporary measure” and that they were “no longer recommended in classrooms.”

Zahawi told MPs in a letter that he kept to his promise and did not keep a mask mandate in place for “a day longer than necessary,” but admitted they could be used in the event of an “extraordinary” local Covid outbreak.

Zahawi’s remarks come as the UK’s largest teacher group, the National Education Union, warned against lifting restrictions “too quickly.”

Dr Mary Bousted, the union’s joint general secretary suggested that the easing of restrictions was aimed at saving Johnson’s job, and not at “exercising a duty of care to the nation’s pupils and the staff who educate them.”

Johnson announced the removal of Plan B restrictions, seen as minor, on Wednesday, as Covid case numbers started to fall.