Schools could face a fresh wave of Covid cases if the Government relaxes strict safety measures after Easter, a union chief warns today.
Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, said it would be a mistake to water down guidance, including advice for pupils to wear masks in the classroom and other areas where social distancing is difficult.
The Department for Education is conducting a review into whether to continue with the face coverings policy in the summer term.
The measures, which were brought in when schools reopened in March, are not mandatory and apply in secondary schools and colleges.
Dr Roach said: “There is a real risk that the success of the vaccination programme to date, the easing of the lockdown and the reduction in current case numbers could lead to ministers being tempted to relax the Covid control measures in schools after Easter.
“In our view this would be a mistake. Ministers must model the behaviour they want to see in maintaining discipline and adherence to Covid safety measures. “Relaxing the rules in schools would send a message to pupils and parents that the threat of Covid has passed at a time when extreme caution is still needed.
“We are not out of the woods yet and maintaining the highest levels of Covid security in our schools is critical as we move into the new term in order to protect the safety and health of teachers and learners.”
A survey of 4,000 of members found 75% backed secondary pupils wearing face coverings in the classroom.
It comes after the NASUWT joined four other major unions to write to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to warn him against rushing into abandoning mask guidance.
Robert Halfon, Tory chairman of the Commons Education Committee, said the Government needed to give an update on the scientific basis for the guidance and whether the policy had impacted on children’s learning.
He told the Mirror: “I think by the time schools are back there needs to be an updated statement and if masks need to stay then they need to explain why.”
A Government spokesperson said: “We have committed to reviewing our face covering guidance for schools over Easter.
“A decision will be made shortly, in partnership with health experts, about whether the evidence suggests these measures can continue into the summer term.”