Leeds local lockdown: GORSE Academies Trust brings forward mandatory face mask rule in secondary schools following parents' concerns
The mandatory face mask rule has been brought forward at a group of Leeds secondary schools following guidance from Leeds City Council.
Parents raised concerns on Friday after they were told that face masks would not be compulsory at GORSE Academies Trust secondary schools until Monday October 5.
Government guidelines state that secondary pupils and staff in local lockdown areas must wear face coverings in corridors, and that schools must implement the rule 'quickly and clearly' following a new local lockdown.
After the council published further guidance this weekend stating that face coverings must be worn in corridors and communal areas immediately, the trust has brought forward the new rule.
As of Tuesday, all students at Boston Spa Academy, Bruntcliffe Academy, The Farnley Academy, The Morley Academy and The Ruth Gorse Academy must wear face coverings.
A new letter will be sent out to parents today to inform them of the change.
The GORSE Academies Trust executive principle 11-16, Leanne Griffiths, said: "The GORSE Academies Trust made the decision to move to compulsory face coverings within secondary communal areas ahead of Leeds City Council’s decision to implement stricter lockdown measures.
"The original date of Monday October 5 was to allow both parents and carers time to purchase two masks per child, as well as the delivery of a significant number of zip lock bags to each academy for students and staff to safely store their face covering when not in use.
"However, since our letter went out on Friday September 25, further guidance has been published over the weekend by Leeds City Council which has stipulated that face coverings must now be worn in corridors and communal areas in all secondary schools.
"As of today (Monday September 28), should students have face coverings with them, they are being asked to wear them.
"Further communication is being sent out today to parents and carers to inform them that face coverings will become mandatory from September 29 in line with the new Government guidance published over the weekend."
What are the new guidelines for Leeds schools?
The World Health Organisation published a statement on 21 August advising that “children aged 12 and over should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults, in particular when they cannot guarantee at least a 1-metre distance from others and there is widespread transmission in the area.”
The Government has chosen to follow this guidance for areas that are under stricter lockdown measures.
Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson said: "Our priority is to get children back to school safely. At each stage we have listened to the latest medical and scientific advice.
"We have therefore decided to follow the World Health Organisation’s new advice. In local lockdown areas children in year 7 and above should wear face coverings in communal spaces.
"Outside of local lockdown areas face coverings won’t be required in schools, though schools will have the flexibility to introduce measures if they believe it is right in their specific circumstances."
What if my child lives in a non-lockdown area but goes to school in a lockdown area?
They will need to wear a mask.
Where in school will they need to wear a mask?
In communal areas such as hallways and dining rooms.
Children will also need to wear masks on school buses as masks are mandatory on public transport.
Do they need to wear them in the classroom?
No, pupils will not need to wear them in the classroom, even when social distancing is not possible, according to the government advice.
The government guidance says: "On the basis of current evidence, in light of the mitigating measures education settings are taking, and the negative impact on communication, face coverings will not generally be necessary in the classroom even where social distancing is not possible.
"There is greater use of the system of controls for minimising risk, including through keeping in small and consistent groups or bubbles, and greater scope for physical distancing by staff within classrooms.
"Face coverings can have a negative impact on learning and teaching and so their use in the classroom should be avoided."
What age group needs to wear a mask?
Children in secondary school will need to wear a mask.
The guidance is for children aged 12 upwards to wear a mask which covers Year 7 students up to college and sixth form students.
There is no guidance for primary school students to wear a mask.
What if I don't have a mask?
Where a student or staff member is struggling to access a mask, or if it soiled or unsafe, the guidance says that schools should take steps to have a “small contingency supply” available, adding no-one should excluded on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering.
Is anyone exempt from wearing a mask?
Exemptions to the new measures include those who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability, or if a person is speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate.