The British Ministry of Education has called on all middle and high school students to wear masks throughout the school day, in an attempt to stop the spread of the omicron. However, school principals were outraged that they had not been consulted, while teachers’ organizations warned that the new measures would not suffice.
Against the backdrop of morbidity in the UK, Education Minister Amazah Zahawi recommended that students in post-primary educational institutions wear masks in classrooms, corridors and libraries from the moment they arrive at school, from the start of the new semester tomorrow and at least until the end of this month. “This is a short-term recommendation, and it will be reviewed on January 26,” he wrote in a statement to education staff.
Many executives were surprised by the recommendation, which was first published in the morning papers. “Leaking media policy is important for many reasons, but my main concern is that my staff should hear about it from me and not from the newspapers,” tweeted Andy Byers, middle school principal at Durham. “They do not need to receive an email from the Ministry of Education, and there is no situation where I am writing to them over the weekend.”
Conservative MP Robert Halfon, who heads the House Education Committee, has expressed reservations about wearing the masks. “What I want is for the government to explain why it is doing this,” he said. “I’m afraid masks in schools will have a negative impact.”
Teachers’ organizations have warned that wearing masks, in addition to the decision to install 7,000 air purifiers in schools, will not be enough to stop the disease and prevent staff shortages. “While schools and colleges will do their best to reduce the impact on students, as they always do, there is a possibility that certain classes and different age groups will have to be sent home for short periods to study remotely,” said the secretary general of the Association of Schools and Colleges Jeff Burton.
The Minister of Education also did not rule out the possibility that there would be no escape from a partial transition to distance education if there was a severe shortage of staff. “It should be a step in for a short period of time, and one should return to full-time classes as soon as possible,” Zahawi wrote. “I want to reassure you that the need to ensure face-to-face education and care for children – are my top priorities.”