Children arriving at a secondary school

Enforce mask-wearing in schools again, say unions

Concerns mount over transmissibility of Delta variant among children.
10 June 2021 , Katie Coyne

Trade unions are calling for face coverings to be reinstated in secondary schools to keep children in school and prevent community spread of COVID-19.

The GMB, UNISON, Unite and the National Education Union have issued a joint statement calling for masks to be brought back for secondaries and colleges, in light of the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant.

Unions are also urging central government to release data detailing how many of the cases in schools are caused by the Delta variant, arguing withholding this information makes it look like ministers have “something to hide”.

Given the increased transmissibility, trade unions are asking Westminster to urgently review the guidance on bubbles and isolation of contacts, and for vaccinations to be made available for pupils in schools as soon as approval is given by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Other measures called for include having outdoor lessons wherever possible, and giving schools with poor ventilation extra resourcing for carbon dioxide monitors and air filters.

The statement said: "Education unions are deeply concerned that secondary school age students now have the highest rates of COVID-19 infection of all age groups, according to Public Health England (PHE) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, and those rates are rising.

"At the weekend, the health secretary acknowledged that 'a huge proportion of the latest cases are in children', that they pass on the virus to the local community and face risks from long COVID.

"That means over the next few weeks more children and young people are likely to be off self-isolating and missing out on face-to-face education.

"PHE has advised that the Delta variant is more transmissible, can lead to more serious infections and vaccines may be less effective against it.

"Action must be taken now to make face-to-face learning safer over the remainder of the school term. Outbreaks mean bubbles, classes or entire year groups, must be sent home. The priority must be to avoid any further loss of education.”

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