Schools 'need new masks and rota guidance now'

Schools have been left in the dark about how DfE Covid safety rules will apply in the new lockdown, warn headteachers
3rd November 2020, 11:32am

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Schools 'need new masks and rota guidance now'

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/schools-need-new-masks-and-rota-guidance-now
Coronavirus Lockdown: Schools Need New Guidance On Face Masks & Pupil Rotas, Says Headteachers' Union

Headteachers are calling for an "urgent review" of guidance for schools after the government failed to say in which circumstances masks and rotas will be mandatory under the new national lockdown.

Tes contacted the Department for Education yesterday morning to ask which schools will have to make mask-wearing compulsory in communal areas when the national restrictions come into force at midnight on Thursday.

The DfE was also asked if any schools have yet been told to bring in a rota system, and if this will change when the lockdown begins.


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But the department has failed to respond. When contacted again by Tes last night, the DfE said the questions would be answered in updated guidance to be published before Thursday. However, the department could not specify exactly when this would be.

Coronavirus: Which schools will need face masks?

Current school Covid safety guidance on the need for masks and rotas is based on the system of tiered local area risk levels that will be superseded by Thursday's national lockdown.

So without new guidance, secondary schools have no idea whether mask-wearing in communal areas will be mandatory or not, just two days before the new restrictions come in.

James Bowen, director of policy for school leaders' union the NAHT, told Tes last night: "In light of the PM's announcement on Saturday, we need to see an urgent review of the guidance the DfE is giving to schools.

"Frankly, they needed this 24 hours ago. Schools need time to consider and implement any changes being proposed, and they cannot land at the 11th hour.

"We are urging DfE to publish updated guidance immediately. Once again, school leaders have found themselves having to field questions from staff, pupils and parents with no guidance from government to draw upon."

The current local Covid alert level system has three tiers, for "medium" risk (Tier 1), "high" risk (Tier 2) and "very high" risk (Tier 3) areas. Each has increasingly tight restrictions, with Tier 3 being the most severe.

There is also a separate four-tier system for keeping schools open during local Covid-19 spikes that the DfE announced at the start of the academic year.

The DfE told Tes last month that areas given the Covid alert level of "high" risk or "very high" risk fall under Tier 1 of the school system, meaning secondary students and staff are expected to wear masks in communal areas.

Secondary schools in other "medium" areas still have the discretion to make masks mandatory in communal spaces.

Tier 2 of the schools framework would involve secondaries bringing in a rota system. The DfE has said decisions to move schools to this tier would be made on a case-by-case basis.

However, at midnight on Thursday the local Covid alert levels will become redundant, as the new national lockdown comes into effect.

When asked by Tes what this will mean for schools, the DfE failed to provide an answer.

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