You will no doubt be aware of the government announcement that it is no longer recommended that students wear face coverings either in lessons or in schools. North Tyneside Headteachers along with national organisations have been seeking clarification on this as it seems counter intuitive that adults still need to wear them in schools where social distancing cannot be maintained, for example in corridors. Our assumption is that the reasoning is based not only on the low rates of transmission in schools, but also by the fact that young people very rarely suffer severe symptoms of Covid. Our primary concern remains the safety of everyone in school and their families and I continue to ensure that our systems of control minimise the risk of transmission.
The Department for Education provided North Tyneside Headteachers with the following additional guidance:
“We continue to recommend that staff and visitors wear face coverings in communal areas where social distancing is not possible. The ongoing requirement for settings to keep pupils and students in bubbles means that they are not mixing.
Staff, however, are not kept in bubbles and may come into contact with each other in a context where they cannot maintain social distancing, for example in staff rooms. Maintaining face coverings for staff in communal areas therefore reduces the risk of broader transmission.
Where a setting cannot maintain consistent bubbles or keep bubbles separate, they can choose to ask pupils and students to wear face coverings in communal areas. Each setting should make decisions in line with their continued risk assessments.”
Whilst student movement around the school is very good with students moving with their year group to their next lesson we cannot guarantee that year groups will not mix and that congestion will not occur, so in line with the last paragraph of the DfE guidance we have made the following decision:
- Students will no longer be asked to wear face coverings in classrooms.
- Students can opt to wear face coverings in classrooms.
- Students will be asked to wear face coverings in communal areas such as corridors, the dining hall and toilet areas.
I know that some students may find this decision frustrating and it does not alter the fact that some students continue to be exempt from wearing a face covering. I also know that the vast majority of our students recognise that it is our collective responsibility to keep one another safe meaning that they will continue to do everything that we ask of them.
This has been a difficult decision as we all want to get back to normal as quickly as we can, but the fact that we have a possible case in year 8 and that two parents of students have tested positive this week serve as a timely reminder that we must remain vigilant. Throughout the pandemic we have worked hard as a school community to keep one another safe and this measure alongside the others we have in place minimise the risk of transmission as far as we possibly can.
Please do get in touch with the school if you have any questions, but in the meantime I hope that you and your family remain safe and well and are starting to enjoy some of the new freedoms that we all have.