A coalition of concerned parents, students and unions have written to education secretary, Gavin Williamson urging him to extend mask use in schools.
The group is ‘extremely concerned’ about plans to abort the use of masks in classrooms by 17 May.
In their letter of 4 May, they write: “We are not aware of any plans to lift face covering requirements in relation to shops or transport, where people generally spend less time [than schools] in close contact with large groups.”
The letter is signed by educational unions, including NEU, UNITE, UNISON, GMB, NASUWT, 400 parents, students and scientists.
It argues that face coverings, along with other measures such as improved ventilation, using outdoor spaces and mass testing, are an essential part of controlling coronavirus transmission in schools.
The letter adds that there are an estimated 43,000 children, and 114,000 teaching and educational staff living with Long Covid.
Up to 8 per cent of school-age children infected with coronavirus have shown symptoms for at least 12 weeks, according to ONS data released on 1 April. “The ONS data indicates that two-thirds of people with long Covid have some degree of limitation in activity, suggesting that the condition has important impacts on people’s day to day lives,” the letter states.
Commenting, Catherine Wilson, Head of support at Parents United UK said: “The removal of masks for secondary school pupils contradicts the available health and safety information we have regarding Covid-19 and threatens to increase the volume of Covid-19 infections in our un-vaccinated children and young people, in addition to school staff and families.”
Latest DfE guidance says that it’s expected face coverings will ‘no longer be recommended’. “This would be no earlier than 17 May and will be confirmed with one week’s notice.”
Infections in schools have fallen ‘significantly’ according to the Schools Infection Survey. The research tested 7,271 secondary school pupils and 2,744 staff for Covid-19 infections between 15 and 31 March and compared these to November.
Dr Shamez Ladhani, Consultant Paediatrician at PHE and the study’s chief investigator, said: “These findings are reassuring and contribute to wider evidence that shows the risk of transmission in schools is low.”
“This also indicates the importance of public health measures in schools for reducing transmission.”
Read the full letter here
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