Last Monday the government announced that from May 17, face coverings would no longer be required in secondary schools. As we have done throughout the pandemic, we followed the DfE guidance and I wrote to you on Wednesday to inform you of the planned change.
However, the guidance pointed out that the ‘reintroduction of face coverings for pupils, students or staff may be advised for a temporary period in response to particular localised outbreaks, including variants of concern.’
Late on Friday afternoon Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Director of Public Health and Wellbeing for Lancashire County Council wrote to headteachers to urge that schools continue with the existing guidance and require students to wear facemasks in the classroom and communal areas like corridors, and staff where social distancing is not possible. A copy of his letter is included below.
As such, we will continue with the guidance that has been in place since March 8. Bury and Blackburn with Darwen councils have given their schools the same advice.
I’ve no doubt that this will be received well by some parents and less well by others, but I firmly believe that following the government advice (which is to follow local public health advice) is the best way of protecting our local community.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.
Thank you for your ongoing support and cooperation
Mark Jackson, Headteacher
Face covering recommendation for Lancashire schools and colleges
I am writing to you to advise that your students and staff should continue to wear face coverings despite restrictions relaxing nationally next week.
As you will be aware, we are concerned locally about the spread across the region of the variant of global concern that was first detected in India. This step would be a prudent one that will help reduce outbreaks in schools and colleges, and help ensure you can stay open.
I am therefore recommending that you continue to follow the current guidance on face coverings until 21 June, the next landmark in the government’s “roadmap”. The guidance will be reviewed ahead of this date.
Continuing to use face coverings in schools and colleges along with maintaining hand washing, social distancing, fresh air and regular testing will help to control the spread of the variant.
My counterpart in Blackburn with Darwen is of the same view as me and will be providing the same advice to headteachers in his area.
I understand that this is a tough recommendation to make, but taking this step will help reduce outbreaks. This is vital so we can build on the good work to keep levels of infection, hospital admissions and the numbers of people becoming seriously ill low.
We want to do all we can to keep our schools and colleges open. The classroom is the best place for young people to learn. Wearing face coverings for just a few weeks longer until we control the situation is an effective way of helping us to do this.
Of course, ultimately the decision on whether or not to follow this guidance is one for you as a headteacher.
Finally, can I once again thank you for your support throughout the pandemic. Schools and colleges have been on the front line throughout the Covid crisis and your leadership, dedication and hard work has been vital to help get us through.
Dr Sakthi Karunanithi
Director of Public Health and Wellbeing
Lancashire County Council