Kids MUST carry on wearing masks in classroom until at least May 17 as ministers ditch hopes of ending rules over Easter
KIDS will have to carry on wearing face masks in the classroom until at least May 17 after ministers ditched hopes of ending their use ahead of next term.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson announced the decision this afternoon and said face coverings will have to stay while vaccinations continue.
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No 10 and education bosses had hoped they would be able to relax the rules at Easter, but they faced a rebellion over the plan from teaching unions.
The department for education said it is now expected they won't be ditched until the next stage of the PM's lockdown roadmap on May 17.
That is the date when social mixing rules on indoor gatherings will be relaxed for the first time.
Officials said keeping masks in classrooms until then will also help keep infections in check until all over 50s are given their first jab.
Mr Williamson said: "The return to school and college from March 8 has been an incredible success and I would like to thank staff, parents and pupils for their compliance with the guidance on reducing transmission of the virus.
"Our latest data also showed that attendance in school remains higher than at any point during the autumn term.
“On top of the protective measures previously in place such as regular hand washing and ventilation, we introduced face coverings in the classroom for secondary schools and colleges to help reduce transmission in parallel with the introduction of twice weekly testing.
“Schools and students have done a great job adapting to Covid secure guidance and working hard to make sure it doesn’t impact learning.
"We obviously all want to get back to facemask-free classrooms and we will do this in line with the latest scientific data while balancing the interests of students, teachers and the wider community.”
Professor John Simpson from Public Health England added: "The return to school after Easter will allow us to continue monitoring the impacts of measures to reduce the spread of Covid, as we encourage families to test regularly.
“Wearing face coverings in secondary schools is an extra control measure to reduce the risk of transmission to support children continuing their education in the classroom.”
The announcement comes just a day after teaching union bosses warned ditching mask rules would spark a third wave in schools.
The NASUWT union called on Boris Johnson not to "remove or water down the current guidance" on social distancing measures after Easter.
A survey of the union's 4,000 school staff members showed that more than three quarters of them support keeping masks in the classroom.
Teachers were worried if students saw rules on face coverings loosened, they'd let down their guard in other areas like social distancing.
Masks are only advised for pupils in secondaries, and don't have to be worn by primary school kids.
And ministers have previously admitted while they strongly recommend their use, students can't be forced to wear them.
Last month, education minister Vicky Ford said no child should be removed from class for refusing to don a face covering.
She said: "Nobody should be denied an education because they don't wear a mask but we do really strongly recommend it.
"There will be some students who will be exempt from wearing masks and we haven't made it mandatory though we're strongly encouraging it.
"The vast majority of teenagers want to do everything they can to protect themselves from the virus, to protect their friends, their family, staff, and they understand the masks."
The rules were introduced when lessons returned on March 8 as a way of reducing the spread of infection as vaccines are rolled out.
But some parents have been sp angered by the measures they're threatening to take the Department for Education to court to get them scrapped.
Families angry that their kids are being forced to wear coverings have sent a pre action letter to education secretary Gavin Williamson.
The campaign group UsforThem claim “the health and welfare of approximately four million children is at stake”.
Co-founder Molly Kingsley said: “It is really upsetting for parents to have to send their children back into a school environment where they are forced or shamed into doing something that risks damaging their health and welfare, and of course their ability to learn, develop and communicate.
“All we are asking for is for the Government to do what any law abiding, democratic government usually does which is to weigh the evidence on both sides of the equation before announcing a policy.
“It makes no sense to have a Prime Minister calling mask wearing in classrooms “nonsensical” when we didn’t have the vaccine, only to preside over a policy which effectively forces children to wear one when we’ve vaccinated over half the adult population.”
The letter is the first step in legal action which could land Mr Williamson in court.
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