Dear Parents and Carers,
I wrote to you yesterday morning regarding the welcome change in guidance to end the use of face coverings in school. Late last night I received a joint statement from the Director of Public Health for Wigan and her counterparts across the Greater Manchester region, which contained a recommendation for schools in our region to continue the use of face coverings in school, particularly in communal areas (mainly corridors) where social distancing is difficult. This is a direct response to the rise in cases that we have seen in the region, most notably in Bolton. The statement reads:
Government guidance states that the reintroduction of face coverings for pupils, students or staff may be advised for a temporary period in response to particular localised outbreaks, including variants of concern, with advice from Directors of Public Health. We are seeing increasing spread in the North West of variants of concern. Several areas in the North West, particularly in Greater Manchester, have seen a recent increase in infections, including amongst young people. Evidence suggests that face coverings continue to be an effective way of reducing transmission. Within schools, they may reduce the extent of transmission and reduce the likelihood of bubbles needing to be asked to self-isolate at home, enabling you to maximise the amount of face to face teaching that can be offered this school year.
I am very disappointed in the timing of this statement, given that all indicators until yesterday morning had been positive and suggested we could fully ease this restriction in our school; however, headteachers are reliant on the experts to guide us and if their joint recommendation is to continue wearing face coverings in certain situations then it would be completely remiss of me to ignore this. In order to try to minimise similar localised outbreaks happening here in our school and community, I am going to continue with some elements of our face covering policy until half term, when the situation will be reviewed again.
Nobody is more frustrated than myself about this situation; however, I hope you can appreciate that in the interests of the school and local community I must respond to this eleventh hour development and heed the professional advice given to me. From Monday 17th May, in line with the recommendations from the Directors of Public Health, students will need to wear face coverings in communal areas in school, this includes the corridors and the canteen. At this stage face coverings will not be required in classrooms unless we are advised to implement this at later date; however, if students wish to voluntarily wear a face covering in lessons this will be allowed. Essentially, this takes our position on face covering back to the position it was in during the Autumn term. If you wish your child to be exempt from wearing a face covering, please can you inform your child’s Head of Year, and we will issue an exemption. All existing exemptions will of course remain in place.
Thank you for your continued support and understanding in these ever-challenging times.
Mr P Davies