Many local councils are still under the impression that it is not safe for schools to return to normal and are pushing for the return of face masks (which Nadhim Zahawi hasn’t ruled out) and other measures to ‘combat Covid’. If they succed, this will “make a mockery of the Education Secretary’s plans to keep children in the classroom”, says the campaign group UsForThem. The Telegraph has the story.
Local councils have been accused by parents of employing “militant Lefty” health chiefs who are advising schools to ramp up Covid measures to control the spread of the virus in schools.
Headteachers have been told by ministers that many of the restrictions which were in place last academic year are no longer necessary. However, as cases rise in schools, public health teams have been called in to advise that measures are stepped up.
Devon County Council has said it is now “encouraging” all secondary school pupils to wear face masks in communal areas, while City of Wolverhampton Council is also asking students to do so.
Cumbria County Council’s Director of Public Health has told children to self-isolate if one of their siblings tests positive for the virus. They say pupils should get a PCR test after three to five days and only return to school if they get a negative result.
This contradicts national guidance, which says pupils should be off school only if they test positive for Covid-19 or are showing symptoms.
Meanwhile, Staffordshire County Council has given teachers a list of “recommended controls” that can be used to prevent Covid outbreaks, which includes bringing back bubbles to limit contact between pupils as well as staggered lunch and break times. The council said these were measures that schools “may potentially want to consider on a case-by-case basis”.
Haringey Council in London said “additional temporary preventative measures (such as bubbles)” were being put in place in schools with rising cases. And Peterborough City Council wrote to parents this week to remind them that headteachers have the right to “refuse access to school to protect other pupils and staff from possible infection with Covid” if they believe a pupil has symptoms.
Wigan Council’s Director of Public Health has introduced a “suite of measures” after a rise in cases at a local school, including face masks in the classroom and asking siblings of children who test positive to isolate.
Ministers have been urged to “rein in” local public health directors and ensure the children’s education is prioritised.
Molly Kingsley, Co-Founder of the parent campaign group UsForThem, said: “Public health teams appear to be too quick to impose disproportionate restrictions on children’s education and lives again. The Department for Education needs to crack down on councils and schools who are overreaching.
“It is really depressing that we are barely one month into term and we are already seeing these restrictions creep back into schools. This will probably get worse and worse and will make a mockery of the Education Secretary’s plans to keep children in the classroom”.
Worth reading in full.