Concerns remain in Calderdale over removing face masks in school classrooms

Concerns remain in Calderdale over removing the requirements for masks to be worn in school classrooms.

By Tom Scargill
Thursday, 27th January 2022, 10:30 am
Students wearing face masks at Park Lane Academy in Halifax

Plan B measures in England have now ended, meaning it will no longer be a requirement for schoolchildren to wear masks.

But concerns have been expressed that, with Covid cases still high, not wearing masks could be the wrong course of action.

Emily Rawlinson, deputy headteacher at Todmorden High School, said: "Covid has undoubtedly presented a great many challenges for schools to tackle; Todmorden High School has aimed to face each challenge in line with our four core values of ambition, respect, care and honesty. At times it has been difficult, but we have a fantastic team and a truly wonderful student body.

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Emily Rawlinson

"Probably the greatest challenge was in the last academic year when we had to send those identified as close contacts home to isolate; there were some particularly upsetting moments where students were asked to isolate again, having only just returned, and a small group of Year 10 students who had to isolate on the same day they were supposed to be undertaking an educational visit.

"In September 2021 our priority was to get students back into school, for what we hoped would be a more normal year, back into our routines and back to enjoying their learning.

"We are committed to the idea that the first step towards any ‘learning recovery’ is centred on students feeling happy and secure.

"Despite our hope for a more normal year, 2021/22 has suffered a great deal of disruption already with students impacted through their own isolations and isolations of their teachers. Despite these disruptions real joy can be felt when walking the school and popping into lessons; the pace of learning is great and overall students welcome being taught face-to-face in school.

Gugsy Ahmed (centre)

"We will continue to respond to the challenges presented by the pandemic, in line with our values, confident that our fantastic staff and student body are more than capable of finding a positive way through.

"Most recently this has involved our decision to uphold local Calderdale Public Health guidance regarding continuing to support the wearing of masks in school.

"With cases in school still high we feel it is the most honest decision as it will protect more vulnerable members of our wider community and ultimately protects our students access to education with the risk of transmission to students and staff reduced."

In a statement, the Calderdale branch of the National Education Union said: "We are concerned that the decision to end the wearing of masks in classrooms may have been taken hastily and without due consideration of current data.

"Covid cases in schools continued to increase in Calderdale while this decision was made.

"Although national headlines state that all schools are open we know that many children are absent with Covid, which will effect their academic progress.

"The significant number of staff off ill is also impacting children’s education. This is particularly worrying for students taking public exams this year.

"Many schools are still waiting for delivery of carbon dioxide monitors and ventilation solutions to help provide clean air in classrooms. We call on the government to facilitate these deliveries as soon as possible."

However, Gugsy Ahmed, headteacher at Parkinson Lane Community Primary School in Halifax, feels the time is right for restrictions to be removed.

He said: "Covid is having a devastating impact on schools - staff having to isolate when they feel well enough to come in is not an ideal situation.

"Schools are not able to be as creative with activities because staff are having to isolate, this breaks flow and continuity.

"It appears that Covid is here to stay and to restrict people by ‘locking’ them up is far from a suitable reaction.

"I understand that there are certain sectors that inadvertently are exposed to the virus a lot more than others, but unfortunately they are exposed to these in more sane times anyway.

"I would very much like to see a return to ‘normality’ where parents can join in the community activities of a school, where patients can see a doctor, where individuals are free to move freely with the understanding that at some point we will be exposed to the virus and be able to survive it.

"It would be useful if everyone returned to work as I believe that working from home has caused some issues, whilst being beneficial in others.

"I think it’s interesting to note that some countries have downgraded this to no more than symptoms of a flu or cold. I very much believe that individuals are able to risk assess dangers for themselves."