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Teachers' union wants mandatory masks in schools

Teachers' union wants mandatory masks in schools

Saturday 27 November 2021

Teachers' union wants mandatory masks in schools

Saturday 27 November 2021

Teachers are making an urgent plea for more safety measures in schools - including for masks to be mandatory in all areas.

In an open letter, the NASUWT, one of the Bailiwick's largest unions, says there are "soaring case numbers which appear to be driven by infections among pupils and staff".

The teachers claim that if the States do not concede to their requests "children's education will continue to be disrupted and the safety and welfare of school staff, pupils and the wider community will be put at risk".

But Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen, President of the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture, said the NASUWT is exaggerating the impact of covid-19 in schools.

"At midday on Tuesday this week, there were 176 students with covid-19 in States-run schools out of a total of 6,781 students. In terms of staff numbers, there were 11 known cases of covid-19 among 880 staff in States-run schools," said Deputy Dudley-Owen.

"School attendance in 2019 in the autumn term [pre-covid] was 95.69% whereas this term attendance is currently at 91.85%.

"You can see that painting a picture that covid-19 is burning a hole through Guernsey's education system is not quite accurate."

The teachers are calling for:

  • a pause on whole-school assemblies and in-person meetings between staff and parents
  • the reintroduction of mandatory face coverings in all areas of schools
  • the postponement or cancellation of non-essential activities 

The NASUWT has written a similar letter to Deputy Dudley-Owen's counterpart in Jersey. 

Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said that "pupils, parents and school staff must not be left to have to pay the price of a lack of appropriate covid safety measures in the run-up to the Christmas holidays".

Pictured: Teachers represented by the NASUWT are asking the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture to introduce additional safety measures in schools to reduce the chances of children and teachers catching covid-19. 

“Schools in Guernsey currently have some of the lowest levels of Covid safety mitigations," said Dr Roach.

"Face coverings, though recommended, are seldom worn by pupils in communal areas. Carbon dioxide detectors have not been rolled out in the same way as in other jurisdictions. 

“At a time when we are seeing an exponential rise in cases, with many linked to schools, it is prudent and essential that the States take action.

“The focus must be on protecting public health and avoiding further damaging disruption to pupils’ education. Introducing and enforcing compliance with the proportionate measures we have set out in our letter will help in the fight to avoid a bad situation becoming worse in the run up to Christmas."

Pictured: Connie Armstrong, District Secretary of another teachers' union, the National Education Union, and Sarah Buck, a teacher in a States' secondary school, are among others raising concerns about the environment in which students, teachers and other school staff are working at the present time.

Earlier this week, the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture announced that it was postponing the first Ofsted inspections of schools in the Bailiwick because of the demands which covid-19 is currently placing on schools and their staff. 

States' schools are due to break up for the Christmas and New Year holiday on 22 December, but that is three-and-a-half weeks away. Rumours had been circulating that the States were considering closing schools sooner than that. On Friday, Deputy Peter Ferbrache, Chairman of the Civil Contingencies Authority, said the Authority was not currently considering any lockdown measures. 

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