Derbyshire school leaders back guidance as face masks ‘strongly advised’ for pupils in Year 7 and above
School leaders in North East Derbyshire say they are backing new guidance from the Government around face masks for staff and pupils in Year 7 and above.
Under the new guidance, all staff, visitors and pupils in are “strongly advised” to wear a face covering in communal areas, unless exempt.
The measures, which came into effect on Monday, are temporary and will be reviewed in three weeks, the Department for Education said in a statement to school leaders on Sunday.
It comes after the Prime Minister held a national press conference in which he announced new rules on face coverings in shops and public transport, following the detection of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “The news of a new variant – the so-called Omicron variant – will have understandably caused concern for people across our country, including our teachers, wider education and childcare staff, parents, pupils and students.
“We are already taking targeted and proportionate action as a precaution while we find out more information about the new variant.
“As we do so, we will continue to prioritise children’s and young people’s education and wellbeing, making sure education and childcare settings are as safe as possible and children continue to benefit from classroom teaching.”
Students in Year 7 or above should also continue to wear face coverings on public and dedicated school transport, unless they are exempt, the DfE said.
Headteachers in Derbyshire say they are backing the decision, which also encourages staff and students to test themselves twice a week using lateral flow tests.
Nick Melson, principal of Eckington School, said: “We will always work to keep our community safe and, with the unknown risks posed by the Omicron variant, we can understand the need to reintroduce face coverings in communal areas as a temporary precaution.
"At Eckington School we will be asking staff, students and visitors to wear a face covering when in busy communal areas of our school, such as corridors or lunch queues, or on school buses, to try and reduce the possible transmission of COVID-19.
"Our staff, students and families have been amazing throughout the COVID pandemic so far and so I thank them for their support with measures to try to protect our community.”
Steve Roberts, lead principal at both Outwood Academy Newbold and Outwood Academy Hasland Hall in Chesterfield, said: "As we have always done through the pandemic, we are following the latest government guidance and we are asking all staff, students and visitors to wear face coverings in communal areas
"We are aware that some people are exempt from wearing a face covering and we have stressed the importance of students being sensitive to individual circumstances when there are instances that peers may not be wearing a face covering.
"We know that it is important we all work together to keep each other safe during these challenging times and we want to thank our students, staff, parents and wider school community for their ongoing patience and support."