Reintroduce face coverings in schools, say unions

Four education unions have called on the government to reinstate face coverings in schools to limit coronavirus spread.

With infections on the rise once more, the unions have issued a joint statement demanding a range of safety measures to keep education on track and reduce the risk of further closures.

The statement from the unions calls for the re​introduction of face coverings in all areas of secondary schools and colleges​, including classrooms."

The unions that have signed are UNISON, GMB, Unite and NEU. The joint statement says: "Education unions are deeply concerned that secondary school age students now have the highest rates of Covid-19 infection of all age groups, according to Public Health England (PHE) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, and those rates are rising.

"At the weekend, the Health Secretary acknowledged that 'a huge proportion of the latest cases are in children', that they pass on the virus to the local community and face risks from long Covid.

"That means over the next few weeks more children and young people are likely to be ​off self-isolating and missing out on face-to-face education.

"PHE has advised that the Delta variant is more transmissible, can lead to more serious infections and vaccine​s may be less effective against it."

The statement also says that vaccinations should be given to students once their age group is allowed, and that they should be given on site.

"The priority must be to avoid any further loss of education. This includes the rollout of vaccinations for ​pupils, following the​ Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) view that these are safe for ​those aged 12 ​and over. This could help reduce transmission, school disruption and the risks of long Covid.

"Pupils should be offered the vaccine, ​as is already happening in many other countries, ​as soon as the J​oint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) gives ​its approval. Schools and colleges must be given the right support​and resources to enable pupils to be vaccinated on site."

The statement also demands making resources available to schools with poor ventilation ​to purchase carbon dioxide monitors and air filters. Outdoor lessons should be encouraged wherever possible.

Read more