Headteachers at Barnsley schools have urged students and staff to keep wearing masks due to concerns about a new COVID-19 variant, which has caused an increase in South Yorkshire cases.
The Government relaxed the rules on the wearing of face coverings in secondary schools and colleges this week but the town’s Director of Public Health, Julia Burrows has supported the headteachers’ recommendation that face coverings should still be worn.
Ms Burrows stated she wants Barnsley to be in a “good position” in the run-up to the summer holidays, and to reduce the risk of transmission in schools and colleges.
She said: “I am supportive of Headteachers choosing to maintain that face coverings should still be used for pupils, students, and staff in classrooms or communal areas in all schools for the remaining period of the school term.
“In all schools and FE providers, face coverings should continue to be worn by staff and visitors in situations outside of the classrooms where social distancing is not possible.
“Pupils have become familiar with the use of face coverings and for a period of nine weeks until the end of term, it feels sensible to encourage their continued use if schools wish to do so.
“As the restrictions are slowly eased, we need to be as cautious as possible to ensure that community transmission remains low. The continued use of face coverings will support our approach in doing this.”
Barnsley currently has a rate of 40 cases per 100,000 population, above the UK average of 23 which is why senior staff at the town’s schools have decided to ignore the new Government relaxation on face covering rules.
Headteacher of Outwood Academy Shafton, Alison McQueen, believes the decision was necessary and expects the strict rules on face coverings to remain for the foreseeable future.
She said: “We have been informed locally that the COVID-19 rates remain notably above the national rates and, as such, have received advice from the public health team at Barnsley Local Authority that students should continue to wear a face covering when moving around the school in corridors and in communal areas.
“Whilst we had all been looking forward to the relaxation of face coverings in school. We also recognise the expert medical advice for our local area and, therefore, ask that your child continues to bring a face covering to school, until we are notified of a fall in COVID-19 infection rates.”