High schools make face masks in class compulsory - what's your view?
- Credit: PA
High schools in Suffolk are making it mandatory for pupils to wear face masks in lessons when they return next week.
Dave Lee-Allan, headteacher of Stowmarket High School and chair of the Suffolk Association of Secondary Heads, said: "At Stowmarket we intend to insist that students and staff wear masks in lessons - in fact our key worker lessons have been doing this for some time now."
He added: "It would be helpful if the Government line was more definitive. However, we will take the necessary decisions that reassure our school community that we are making the school as safe as we can."
Mr Lee-Allan, whose school is one of those staggering pupils' return next week, also said it was his understanding that other secondary schools in Suffolk were taking a similar approach.
With schools set to reopen in England next week, government guidance is for secondary school students to wear masks when social distancing cannot be maintained. Primary school pupils do not need to wear masks.
Mark Barrow, chief executive of Seckford Education Trust, which manages high schools in Saxmundham, Ixworth and Becles, said: “All students, except those with a medical exemption, are required to wear face masks in all indoor spaces.
"This includes the classroom and public areas, except when sitting down eating or drinking."
Copleston High School in Ipswich, which is part of the Gippeswyk Community Educational Trust, made face masks mandatory in lessons during the second national lockdown.
Principal Andy Green has welcomed the government's move to require face masks in lessons, and said: "We stuck our neck out on that some months ago and not everyone thought we were right.
"However, Copleston and the trust always made it clear that focusing on health and safety was the most important thing."
Chantry Academy in Ipswich has also been at the forefront of requiring face coverings, making them compulsory last September for both students and staff between lessons, in corridors and during social time.
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Craig D'Cunha, executive headteacher, said: "We are now also applying this policy in class where social distancing isn't possible."
However, he said this would not apply to sport or drama, or some other lessons where social distancing was possible, such as some technology subjects.
He added exemptions would be given to students who could not wear masks for medical reasons, including anxiety and mental health grounds. Mr D'Cunha also stressed that a whole raft of other safety measures were also in place at the school.
Nationally, there has been concern over claims that rules over face coverings in schools are unclear. Robert Halfon, who chairs the Education Select Committee, insisted "definitive regulations" must be put in place on whether students should wear face coverings, and said teachers are being put under "enormous pressure" because of the current confusion.
However, schools minister Nick Gibb said: "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."