As reported by BBC news, parents fear their children’s learning could be jeopardised at a school which requires face masks be worn in class, contrary to government advice
Framingham Earl High School, near Norwich, introduced masks in lessons “to offer additional protection”. The government told secondary schools and colleges in England face masks must be worn in communal areas but “should be avoided” in classrooms.
The Sapientia Education Trust mask policy covers all its six high schools. In a letter to parents, Chris Lloyd, health and safety manager at the trust, said: “Reluctantly, even with all of the measures we have in place we believe there is a genuine risk to your children’s continuity of education, wellbeing and career prospects if we don’t take further action.”
He added that teachers were self-isolating “with increasing frequency” following instruction from the test and trace system.
Jonathan Taylor, the trust’s chief executive officer said: “We have reviewed their (government’s) latest guidance and our interpretation is that our measures fall within the scope of this guidance – which in itself is advisory in nature.”
New guidance, issued by the Department for Education last week, includes the directive that “face coverings can have a negative impact on learning and teaching and so their use in the classroom should be avoided.”
James Summerfield, who has an 11-year-old at the academy, said, while he understood teachers might be “fearful of catching the virus” he did not think “schools should be making up their own rules”.
“I just don’t know what evidence the school would be basing their decision on. I certainly haven’t been provided with any evidence or a reason why they would contradict the government’s recommendations,” he said.
He added his wife, a healthcare worker, knew the discomfort of wearing a face mask for her 12-hour shifts.
“To be asked to wear masks for many hours in the class every day will inevitably prove very difficult, both physically and mentally, for numerous pupils of all ages,” the family said in a letter to the school.
“I acknowledge first-hand how difficult this will be for the children, where communication and learning will be potentially jeopardised.”
Another parent, Emma Coleman, said: “I was surprised about the decision, as it doesn’t say that in the government guidelines.”
After her son, who has asthma, spent a day wearing a mask in class Mrs Coleman said she will not be asking him to do it again.
“I did ask him to try wearing his mask in class and see if he could tolerate it.
“I wasn’t surprised when he came home and told me he found it extremely uncomfortable and too restrictive,” she said.
Sapientia Education Trust said children with specific educational needs “would not be disadvantaged” and children would not be required to wear a face mask in music, drama and PE lessons, in exams or for health reasons.
It also runs Attleborough Academy, Wymondham College, Fakenham Academy and Old Buckenham High School in Norfolk and Stradbroke High School in Suffolk and all have now adopted the trust’s face covering policy.
The Department for Education has reiterated to the BBC that its position on face coverings remains the same and they should not be worn in classrooms.