With very high levels of infection still prevalent on South Tyneside it’s a situation which on Friday (January 21) prompted Councillor Adam Ellison, Lead Member for Children, Young People and Families, to urge the Borough’s headteachers to “consider recommending face coverings” to pupils.
Nationally the most recently published Government figures showed on January 20th, around a million children in England - one out of every eight pupils - were off school and nine per cent of teachers were absent.
However, as of this Thursday (January 27th) the requirement for pupils to wear masks in classrooms and communal areas will be removed as part of the Government’s ending of Plan B restrictions.
Speaking during the announcement last week, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “Face-to-face education for all students has consistently been my priority, and that is why I am removing face coverings from classrooms – as promised – on the earliest possible date, making sure there is as little disruption to students’ learning as possible and children can enjoy a normal experience in the classroom.”
The situation has sparked a mass debate amongst our readers with some people feeling schools should exercise a cautious approach, while others feel headteachers should follow the Government’s stance.
Below is a flavour of what our readers have said.
Arguments in favour of keeping masks
April Florence Cooper: “I think if a head teacher knows some of their staff are particularly vulnerable to the disease it's unsurprising that they would choose to keep students wearing masks in classrooms.”
Gloria Dixon: “It's well known fact children are helping to spread this virus and if they are allowed to not wear masks, and teachers become ill and have to take time off, then you have shortages of teachers to teach the pupils.”
David Morrow: “It's not exactly a hardship to wear a mask.”
Mavis Douglass: “Schools can try it but because the Government policy is to say no masks could they enforce it? I intend to continue using a mask in crowded areas.”
Arguments against wearing masks
Denise Houston: “These kids have missed out big time and with masks they can't communicate with teachers and have high levels of anxiety as well. Let's get back to some kind of normal as this new one is supposed to mild.”
Wayne Goodwin: “It’s not kids responsibility to protect adults. The vaccine is meant to do that. And looking at the latest ONS statistics you’ll find higher case rates are in the vaccinated.”
Simon Sumner: “They should never have been made to wear them. We need to stop treating children like killing humanoid vectors of disease.”
Cheryl Pearce: “What's the point? In the times that face masks have been compulsory in school my son has caught Covid twice. Masks aren't going to stop the issue.”
Denny Moore: “It’s not children’s job to protect teachers from Covid - that’s the vaccines job.”
Steve Mackie: “No, masks should go. They've put up with them long enough.”