Commenting on the lockdown guidance for schools
issued today by the Department for Education, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:
“Schools and colleges have been waiting for this guidance since the Prime Minister’s announcement on Saturday, and it is frustrating that it has taken so long to arrive given that they now have to digest and implement these measures in a short timeframe.
“The Prime Minister spoke today about it being a moral duty to keep schools open, and we agree it is the right priority, but the government also has a moral duty to support schools, and timely guidance is an important part of delivering on that duty.
“The guidance means it will now be mandatory for face coverings to be worn in the communal areas of all secondary schools and colleges.
“This extension to the rule on face coverings is a sensible response to rising Covid levels, and will act as an extra level of protection on top of the other safety measures in schools. It is vital that this requirement is respected by all parents and pupils. The vast majority are supportive, but we are aware of schools receiving objections from some parents to existing policies.
“It is frustrating that there is still no information on what circumstances would trigger the government’s own contingency plan for rota systems in secondary schools. We appreciate that this is not the intention during the national lockdown but given that the situation is clearly precarious then clarity would be helpful.
“The guidance clarifies that clinically extremely vulnerable staff and pupils should not come into school or college. This is absolutely the right decision, but it will mean that there are more staff missing from the workplace, on top of those who are self-isolating.
“It is imperative that the government reimburses schools and colleges with the cost of hiring supply cover for staff absence. We have received reports of schools having to spend £6,000 per week on supply cover, and this situation is going to become worse. Schools and colleges cannot sustain these costs.
“The guidance allows for after-school provision for the purpose of childcare but not for after-school clubs. We understand the public health basis for this decision, but we are concerned about the extent to which activities such as sports clubs are again being curtailed by the impact of the pandemic.
“The government’s education recovery planning does need to take into account the impact of these restrictions on health and wellbeing.”