Face masks should be reintroduced in classrooms, teaching unions demand as infections rise

Face masks should be reintroduced in classrooms, teaching unions have demanded as infections rise. 

A joint statement, from the National Education Union (NEU), Unison, GMB and Unite, has warned more pupils are "likely to be off self-isolating and missing out on face-to-face education" in the weeks to come.

Outdoors lessons should also be encouraged to minimise any further disruption to education, the unions have urged.

The plea came after Government figures showed that the proportion of pupils attending state schools in England dropped in the week before half-term as more children were forced to self-isolate.

The statement read: "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."

Recent Department for Education statistics suggest that approximately 1.8 per cent of all pupils on roll did not attend school for Covid-19 related reasons on May 27, compared to 1.3 per cent the previous week.

In the North West of England, four per cent of pupils did not attend school for Covid-19 related reasons.

A Government spokeswoman said: "Attendance in schools remains high, and the data shows the steps we are taking to keep outbreaks of the Delta variant under control in schools are working.

"On top of robust measures in place across the country, such as increased ventilation in classrooms and keeping to small group bubbles, we have increased the availability of testing for staff and pupils in families in areas of high prevalence of the variant."

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