ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton comments on the government’s decision to recommend that face coverings are worn in classrooms for students in Year 7 and above in light of the Omicron variant surge.
Commenting on the government’s decision to recommend that face coverings are worn in classrooms for students in Year 7 and above in light of the Omicron variant surge, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:
“While there are obvious drawbacks to the use of face coverings in classrooms, it is clear that the Omicron variant poses a very significant additional risk to education with the potential for further widespread disruption of schools, colleges, and young people. It is absolutely essential that everything possible is done to reduce transmission and ensure that children remain in school, and we therefore support the reintroduction of face coverings in classrooms for students in year 7 and above.
“Face coverings are already advised in communal areas for pupils in year 7 and above. Pupils are accustomed to their use and we are sure the reintroduction of face coverings in classrooms is something that schools and colleges will take in their stride.
“We welcome the provision of an additional 7,000 air cleaning units for early years, schools and colleges to improve ventilation. We have been calling for this for some time and it should have been done earlier but it is a case of better late than never. We await further details about the eligibility criteria for these devices and we urge the government to make sure this scheme is as accessible as possible.
“We also welcome the fact that Ofsted will encourage education settings that are significantly impacted by Covid-related staff absence to ask for their inspection to be deferred. Once again, we have been asking for some time for inspection deferrals to be granted upon request from the school or college concerned because of the severe level of disruption that many are experiencing and the importance of being able to focus on education rather than inspections. We’ll be looking closely at how the process announced today will work.
“All of this is a recognition by the government that the spring term will be extremely challenging for schools and colleges. The biggest problem they face is the likelihood of high levels of staff absence caused by the prevalence of the Omicron variant. While schools and colleges will do their very best to minimise the impact on pupils, as they always do, there is a possibility that this will mean that some classes and year groups have to be sent home for short periods of time to learn remotely.”