High Storrs School in Sheffield asks pupils to wear masks in classrooms - and some parents are not happy

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A school in Sheffield has asked pupils to wear masks in the classroom – and some parents are not happy.

Parents of children at High Storrs School - a Minerva Learning Trust school - received a letter last week about the decision, which was said to be in response to updated guidance from the Department of Education shared with all secondary headteachers.

The letter advised that face coverings should be worn in classrooms starting from December 6 until at least January 7 next year, when the policy is expected to be reviewed - though staff will not be required to wear face coverings when teaching from the front, only when circulating the room when working closely with students.

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High Storrs School.High Storrs School.
High Storrs School.

The Government says pupils should wear masks in communal areas.

One parent, whose daughter attends High Storrs School, said: “I feel very confused and frustrated to be honest. It goes against Government advice (who should have access to the science and data to help make these decisions).

“It also concerns me that they are now suggesting that 12 to 15-year-olds may need a second dose of vaccine. How will this effect take up because the vaccines were ‘sold’ to our children as a way back to normality and here we are again.

“Only one week after implementing face masks in communal areas, now mandating them for use in classrooms, ergo the children will be in them for over six hours a day - yet if you wanted a night out at a restaurant and pubs as an adult, you wouldn't have to wear one.

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Greg Fell, director of public health Sheffield.Greg Fell, director of public health Sheffield.
Greg Fell, director of public health Sheffield.

“Yet again our young children are being forced to carry the burden when they have given up so much. My own daughter missed seven months of school. No trips or residentials, no end of year plays, no Christmas parties etc and now forced back into face cloths.”

She has questioned the necessity of pupils wearing face coverings in senior schools despite many now being vaccinated, as there are teachers in primary schools being exposed to 30-plus children a day in closer contact without face coverings.

Describing it as a 'knee jerk reaction to an evolving situation’, she added: “It isn't explained to the children as advised. They are told to wear them and if they need to remove them for some air they have to do this outside the classroom, thus excluding them.”

Bev Matthews, chief executive officer at Minerva Learning Trust, said: “The decision has been made to extend the requirement for staff and students to wear a face covering in classrooms, as well as in communal areas of the school building, across all schools within Minerva Learning Trust effective from Monday, December 6.

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“This has been a difficult decision, but it is felt that, on the balance of rising cases, increasing staff and student absence and uncertainty around the new variant, this was the right decision to make in order to keep our staff, students and community as safe as possible. Keeping as many pupils as possible in face-to-face learning and reducing the amount of Covid related absences is our priority, and the safety and well-being of our students and staff has been at the heart of this decision.”

She added that students who wish to apply for exemption should do so by contacting the school and following the exemption process in place.

While Minerva Learning Trust is asking children to wear face coverings in the classroom as well as in communal areas, this is not the case at all secondary schools.

Director of public health in Sheffield, Greg Fell, said: “The pandemic is far from over and we have a very difficult winter ahead. Keeping children and young people in the classroom for face-to-face teaching and learning is a priority, so educational settings are having to carefully consider any additional risk that could impact on this.

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“We have asked all settings to request that face coverings are worn in line with new Government guidance and have provided guidance and tools so that settings can carry out individual risk assessments and do what’s best for their school, pupils and staff.”