Ministers warned schools risk 'mask anarchy' without clearer rules
Ministers warned schools are at risk of ‘mask anarchy’ without clearer rules on face coverings because pupils can just ignore Government’s ‘advisory guidance’ that they should be worn in classrooms and communal areas
- Secondary school pupils told to cover their faces in classes until Easter
- Rob Halfon said this could make situation difficult for headteachers
- He demanded ministers introduce ‘definitive regulations’ that avoid all doubt
Schools are at risk of succumbing to ‘mask anarchy’ because of weak rules about the use of face coverings, ministers were warned today.
Secondary school pupils have been told to cover their faces in classes when they return to lessons from Monday.
But the rule change – which has sparked some controversy among parents – is only advice, which could create a difficult situation in schools, according to Tory MP Rob Halfon.
The chairman of the Education Committee demanded ministers introduce ‘definitive regulations’ that avoid all doubt for parents, pupils and teachers.
Speaking in the Commons today he said: He told the Commons: ‘Given that the schools minister (Nick Gibb) said that the wearing of masks by pupils on the school estate is advisory guidance, if a pupil or a parent on behalf of a pupil objects to comply with the wishes of a headteacher to wear a mask, are we not in danger of creating mask anarchy?
‘Enormous pressure is being put on head teachers in Harlow because of the confusion, like Vic Goddard, head teacher of Harlow Passmores School.
‘Is it not better to come down firmly on one side or another and provide clearly definitive regulations to help teaching staff?’
Children at secondary schools in England are being advised to wear face coverings in all areas where social distancing cannot be maintained, including classrooms, until Easter under strengthened protective measures.
But many parents have attacked the requirement, with some saying it is too restrictive a burden to place on children.
Rob halfon (right) demanded ministers introduce ‘definitive regulations’ that avoid all doubt for parents, pupils and teachers. But Schools minister Nick Gibb (left) replied: ‘We said very clearly that we strongly recommend students in secondary schools to wear face coverings in classrooms’
How the new rules could work: Children in a class at a school in France wearing masks
Mr Gibb responded: ‘Well we said very clearly that we strongly recommend students in secondary schools to wear face coverings in classrooms where it’s not possible to keep social distances between pupils.
‘And we’ve also said for quite a number of months that where in communal areas of a school it’s not possible to maintain social distance, then staff and adults and students in secondary schools should also wear face masks.’
It came as Education Secretary Gavin Williamson acknowledged that the pandemic has ‘impacted’ the attainment gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils.
Questioning the minister in the Commons today, shadow education secretary Kate Green said: ‘Even before the pandemic, child poverty stood at over four million, up more than 700,000 since Labour left office, and progress on narrowing the attainment gap between disadvantaged and other students had stalled. What targets has the Secretary of State set to address these shocking failures?’
Responding, Mr Williamson said ‘we recognise that the work that we’ve done in terms of closing the attainment gap between those who are richest and poorest has been impacted as a result of this pandemic and this is why we are taking a targeted approach in terms of our investment’.
Ms Green added: ‘But just days from the Budget, there is still no commitment to keep the £20 uplift in Universal Credit, no sign that the Secretary of State will abandon the public sector pay freeze and he’s allocated just 43p per pupil per day to support catch up.
‘Does he really believe that this is good enough, or will he stand up for children and families and tell the Chancellor they must come first in the Budget?’
Mr Williamson replied: ‘On this side of the House, we believe passionately in terms of driving up educational standards because we recognise that for children – especially from the most disadvantaged backgrounds – that is the best way to give them the opportunities in life that we want to see every child have.’
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson acknowledged that the pandemic has ‘impacted’ the attainment gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils
Mr Williamson also failed to rule out the prospect of the school year being restructured to reduce the length of summer holidays.
Conservative MP Imran Ahmad Khan said: ‘I was interested reading the Institute of Economic Affairs’ recent report entitled ‘Back to school and after’, which outlines a number of policies that would help resolve critical issues facing our schools.
‘Summer holidays are one key area. It appears they prove counterproductive for pupils.’
He added: ‘I wonder if the minister would kindly look into the proposal of restructuring the school year to reduce the length of summer holidays, a policy that would greatly benefit pupils and parents?’
Mr Williamson responded: ‘We’ve asked Sir Kevan Collins to look across a whole and broad range of different ways of giving children a boost in terms of being able to not just catch up in terms of any learning that they’ve lost, but actually more fundamentally make major changes to actually how we drive educational attainment over a generation and more.
‘And of course all of this is something that Sir Kevan will be looking at.’
Source: Read Full Article