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As schools in Wales return this week for the new academic year, the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, has written to the Education and Health Secretaries and local authorities questioning the current guidance to schools that secondary pupils do not need to wear face coverings in classrooms, given the virtual impossibility of maintaining social distancing in these spaces.

Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT said:

“The Education Secretary has said that she has every confidence in schools to ensure pupil safety.

“A huge amount of hard work has been undertaken by school leaders and teachers to put in place measures to mitigate the risks of Covid and it is essential that every school has in place robust measures to mitigate the spread of the virus.

“However, given the Welsh Government considers that face coverings must be worn where two-metre social distancing cannot be maintained, it needs to be made clear why this requirement has not been extended to classrooms, given that two metre social distancing between staff and pupils inside classrooms is also extremely difficult.

“The NASUWT is clear that while face masks are not a panacea against COVID-19 and must be accompanied by enhanced cleaning and hand hygiene regimes, it is important that all steps possible are taken to minimise the risks of virus transmission within schools. A robust approach to safety will also help to ensure schools can remain open and to reduce the risk of further disruption to pupils’ education.

“Getting schools over the line by reopening this week is not the end of the matter. Keeping them open safely in the coming weeks and months must remain the priority."

Neil Butler, NASUWT National Official Wales, said:

“Many pupils, parents and teachers remain extremely anxious about the return to school and we believe clarification on the rules around the wearing of face coverings is necessary to enhance confidence and a consistent approach to safety.

“In addition, the Welsh Government must closely monitor the impact of school reopening on community transmission of the virus, along with compliance in schools with the required safety measures and be ready to step in with additional support and actions if necessary.

“The priority must remain the safety and welfare of pupils and school staff.” 

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