From the start of the school year, all schools in Lytham St. Anne’s are set to reopen as normal and attendance will be mandatory again as it is in ‘normal’ times.
But will our students and teachers be wearing face masks? Travelling to school on public transport – students will have to wear face masks. Going into shops for snacks and sweets – students will have to wear face masks. Unions say that this highlights the need for similar protections to be in place in schools and colleges when they reopen in four weeks’ time. Currently, once in school, face masks need not be worn.
However, already some schools have announced they will ask students to wear masks, using the words that students will be ‘expected’ to wear masks or ‘strongly encouraged’ to wear masks. One comprehensive, Holmes Chapel in Cheshire, has even told parents the masks are now part of the school uniform and can be bought for £3 at a designated shop. Its July newsletter said: ‘The wearing of face coverings will be compulsory for students and staff when inside the school buildings.’
And teaching unions, and other unions which support welfare staff, catering staff and cleaners, certainly want this to be compulsory and nationwide.
Patrick Roach, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) union said that that guidance to other employers recognises that ‘face masks should be worn’ where physical distancing ‘cannot be assured’. ‘Teachers and other staff working in schools also want to be assured that, when they return to the workplace in September, they will be afforded the same level of protection as other workers, and that the guidance for schools will be brought into line with guidance for other workplaces.’
Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said there was ‘a fair degree of confusion’ about why face coverings were required in some settings but not in schools.
The GMB wrote to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson two weeks ago, asking him to consider new rules for wearing masks in schools. It said school staff questioned why they have to wear masks on public transport to get to work or in shops if they pop out at lunch time — but not in the classroom. GMB’s National Officer Karen Leonard said: ‘Changing the rules for buses and shops to enforce the wearing of masks while actively discouraging those working in schools from even wearing them is causing untold confusion. It’s time for Gavin Williamson and his colleagues to rethink their position, provide clarity and consistency for our valuable school staff, and ensure PPE – including face masks – is available and can be worn by staff in schools where required.’ She added it was ‘plain common sense’ that teachers and other workers in schools should be able to wear coverings.