Kids MUST carry on wearing masks in classroom or risk third wave of Covid in schools, warn unions

KIDS must carry on wearing masks in the classroom to stop a third wave of Coronavirus ripping through schools, teachers have demanded.

The NASUWT union called on Boris Johnson not to "remove or water down the current guidance" on social distancing measures in schools after Easter.

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It warned a third wave could grip schools if rules on face coverings are relaxed despite the successful vaccination programme.

A survey of the union's 4,000 school staff members showed that more than three quarters of them support keeping masks in the classroom.

Ministers have repeatedly said the rules should only be temporary and that they hope to remove them after the Easter break.

Some parents have been angered by the measures, with one group threatening to take the Department for Education to court to get them scrapped.

But the calls by the NASUWT highlight the opposition the Government will face from teachers to any softening of the rules.

Its general secretary Patrick Roach said: “There is a real risk that the success of the vaccination programme to date, the easing of the lockdown and the reduction in current case numbers could lead to ministers being tempted to relax the Covid control measures in schools after Easter.

“In our view this would be a mistake. Ministers must model the behaviour they want to see in maintaining discipline and adherence to Covid safety measures.

"Relaxing the rules in schools would send a message to pupils and parents that the threat of Covid has passed at a time when extreme caution is still needed.

“We are not out of the woods yet and maintaining the highest levels of Covid security in our schools is critical as we move into the new term in order to protect the safety and health of teachers and learners."

Teachers are worried if students see rules on face coverings loosened, they will let down their guard in other areas like social distancing.

Masks are only advised for pupils in secondaries, and don't have to be worn by primary school kids.

And ministers have previously admitted while they strongly recommend their use, students can't be forced to wear them.

Last month education minister Vicky Ford said no child should be removed from class for refusing to don a face covering.

She said: "Nobody should be denied an education because they don't wear a mask but we do really strongly recommend it.

"There will be some students who will be exempt from wearing masks and we haven't made it mandatory though we're strongly encouraging it.

"The vast majority of teenagers want to do everything they can to protect themselves from the virus, to protect their friends, their family, staff, and they understand the masks."

The rules were introduced when lessons returned on March 8 as a way of reducing the spread of infection as vaccines are rolled out.

The latest intervention comes after furious parents threatened to launch legal action to force ministers to get rid of masks from the classroom.

Families angry that their kids are being forced to cover up have sent a pre action letter to education secretary Gavin Williamson.

The campaign group UsforThem claim “the health and welfare of approximately four million children is at stake”.

Co-founder Molly Kingsley said: “It is really upsetting for parents to have to send their children back into a school environment where they are forced or shamed into doing something that risks damaging their health and welfare, and of course their ability to learn, develop and communicate.

“All we are asking for is for the Government to do what any law abiding, democratic government usually does which is to weigh the evidence on both sides of the equation before announcing a policy.

“It makes no sense to have a Prime Minister calling mask wearing in classrooms “nonsensical” when we didn’t have the vaccine, only to preside over a policy which effectively forces children to wear one when we’ve vaccinated over half the adult population.”

The letter is the first step in legal action which could land Mr Williamson in court.

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