The government should not rush into removing face-covering requirements in schools and risk the progress made on reducing Covid disruption in education so far, a headteachers' leader said today.
The warning came as new government statistics showed that the number of pupils absent from school because of a potential contact with a coronavirus case had doubled in a week.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union the NAHT, said that the drop in attendance this week shows that many children continue to have their education disrupted by the pandemic.
“Schools are working hard to deliver complex safety arrangements whilst also providing a settled learning environment for pupils," he added.
"But schools cannot do this alone. As society begins to look to lessen restrictions, we must take care not to move too quickly and risk the progress made.
Covid and schools: 'Don't rush to remove face masks rule'
“No one wants to see pupils or staff wearing face masks for longer than is necessary. But the government should not rush into changing this policy without careful consideration of all the scientific evidence surrounding the wearing of face coverings in schools.
"Clearly, the safety and wellbeing of all members of school communities and their families should remain our primary concern. Schools are grateful to parents and carers for continuing to encourage children to observe current safety measures.
Mr Whiteman also urged the government to consider the additional effort and expense that schools are facing to keep Covid safety requirements in place.
He said: “Schools will also need continuing support from government. The government needs to remember that there is still nothing ‘routine’ about this safety activity. It requires a great deal of additional effort and expense that is yet to be repaid to schools in full.
"As we look towards the recovery agenda in education, children will need a level of investment not yet witnessed.”