'Hapless’: DfE’s school Covid guidance goes missing

Guidance on what new Covid restrictions means for masks in schools is published but then disappears, leaving school leaders in the dark

John Roberts

Mask wearing will no longer be mandatory for secondary schools if they are in a middle risk tier area.

A headteachers’ leader has criticised the Department for Education (DfE) after new guidance on what the latest Covid restrictions will mean for schools was published and then disappeared from its website today.

The department published a document which showed that the requirement for all staff and pupils in secondaries to wear masks in communal areas was set be relaxed for some schools when the national lockdown finished next week.

But then by 12.45 this afternoon, the link to this guidance had stopped working. And the DfE’s wider Guidance for Full Opening; Schools document was also no longer available on the government’s website this afternoon until at least 6.45pm.

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Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “This is par for the course and shows the gulf between the work of school leaders who are navigating complexities of running schools this term to keep the show on the road and the hapless approach of this government.

“On a day when school leaders need answers and where we are all craving certainty about what the new restrictions will mean for schools, the guidance goes down and so school leaders are put in a position where they cannot ask the questions from their school community about what this will mean for them.”

Tes has asked the DfE repeatedly whether the new guidance that was published still stands or whether it has been deliberately removed or withdrawn, but received no answer.

Before it disappeared, the guidance had said that masks would be mandatory in the communal areas of secondary schools in areas in tiers 2 and 3.

During the national lockdown, masks were mandatory in all secondary schools.

The change announced in the guidance would mean from next week the mandatory masks rule would be relaxed for secondary schools in tier 1 areas. This would currently only apply to the three areas in tier 1: Cornwall, the Isle of Scilly and the Isle of Wight. 

However the prime minister, Boris Johnson, has said tonight that local tiers will be regularly reviewed, meaning more areas could move into tier 1.

The change on mask rules from the DfE came as the government published details of which of the three tiers for Covid restrictions local areas of England are being placed into. 

The missing guidance, which had been published today, also said that teachers classed as “clinically extremely vulnerable” have been told they can return to work under the government’s reformed triple-tier system.

When the second national lockdown came into force, extremely vulnerable school staff had been advised to work from home.

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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