A secondary school has been slammed as ‘irresponsible and dangerous’ for its lenient policy on face masks while stressing the need for ‘polishable leather shoes’.
Since schools reopened in full yesterday, the government wants all high school and college students to wear masks in classrooms and not just while walking around the buildings.
And while it’s not compulsory – and said to be necessary when a two-metre social distance can’t be maintained – most schools are asking students to follow the guidelines and keep them on at all times indoors.
However, Stockport School is taking a different approach and telling pupils the masks don’t need to be worn in class.
Explaining the school’s mask policy in an email to parents, headteacher Ian Irwin said: “Students must then keep their face covering on until they have entered their next classroom and are safely seated facing front in their assigned seat, at which point their classroom teacher will then advise them that due to our other classroom Covid safety controls, they may then remove their face covering for the duration of the lesson if they wish.”
The safety measures implemented at the Mile End Lane school are listed as ‘year group bubbles, one-way systems, safe social zones, hygiene routines, track and trace seating plans, students facing front in classrooms, Teacher 2 metre safe teaching zones, and increased ventilation’.
And like all other high schools and colleges, students are now being tested twice a week using the rapid lateral flow tests.
But the email has angered one parent who contacted the Manchester Evening News to share their concerns over the seemingly lenient face mask policy.
They were particularly annoyed by the school’s reminder to parents that children should only be wearing ‘black polishable leather school shoes’, saying this highlights even further how much the school ‘has its priorities wrong’.
“The recommendations regarding masks in school are clear and the school are not even trying to meet them,” said the parent.
“There are no other safety controls in most classrooms. Students are not always facing forward and there is often poor ventilation. They sit shoulder to shoulder for an hour. They frequently turn round to chat to their peers.”
They added: “I feel it is irresponsible and dangerous of the school not to follow the DfE guidelines regarding masks in classrooms and the emphasis on polishable leather shoes – which are mentioned multiple times – seems ridiculous at a time when most shops are closed and the school will not take such simple measures as mask wearing as seriously.”
The email from school explains that students can wear masks in class if they wish to.
Mr Irwin adds: “Following discussions and full unified agreement with Teaching Union Representatives in school, we do not expect students to wear a face covering whilst in lesson after they have been greeted and advised that they can remove it by their Teacher.
“It is our continued view that our existing and well-established protective Covid control measures in classrooms, including our new asymptomatic testing programme, reduce the risks, and the wearing of face coverings throughout a lesson or multiple back to back lessons for a long duration, will be very uncomfortable for students and staff, and may inhibit effective communication and the quality of teaching and learning activity.
“Therefore, unless an individual student or member of staff wishes to wear a face covering in lessons as well as in corridors and communal areas, they will not be expected to do so upon our return.”
Department for Education guidelines on masks state: “Where pupils and students in year 7 and above (and their equivalents) are educated, we recommend that face coverings should be worn by staff, pupils and students when moving around the premises, outside of classrooms, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing cannot easily be maintained.
“Face coverings do not need to be worn by pupils and students when outdoors on the premises.
“In addition, we now also recommend that in those settings where pupils and students in year 7 and above (and their equivalents) are educated, face coverings should be worn in classrooms, in other learning environments such as workshops, and during activities unless social distancing can be maintained.
“This does not apply in situations where wearing a face covering would impact on the ability to take part in exercise or strenuous activity, for example in PE lessons.”
Stockport Council’s return to school guidance suggests schools should be following the advice of the DfE.
It states: “Students in year 7 and above should wear face coverings, unless they are exempt, when moving around the premises, in classrooms and during activities unless social distancing can be maintained. This guidance will apply at least until Easter when it will be reviewed.
“Please encourage your child/young person to take the wearing of face coverings seriously. We recognise that it may be difficult for young people to maintain this throughout the day, but it is an essential part of the government’s strategy to prevent the spreading of the virus in schools.”
The Manchester Evening News has contacted Stockport School for a comment.