Teachers calling for masks to be mandatory in schools

TEACHERS are calling for masks to be made mandatory in all school areas to protect staff from Covid-19 and avoid a work-related stress epidemic within the local profession.

NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach.
NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach.

As well as masks, they also want whole-school assemblies and meetings with parents stopped, and all non-essential activities postponed or cancelled.

NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach has written to Education, Sport & Culture President Andrea Dudley-Owen to express extreme concern that Guernsey has some of the weakest mitigations to stop the spread of the virus, in his view.

‘Face coverings, though recommended, are seldom worn by pupils in communal areas,’ Dr Roach said.

‘Carbon dioxide detectors have not been rolled out in the same way as other jurisdictions. There are precious few other precautions.’

The NASUWT is also deeply concerned that non-essential activities are continuing, with staff expected to attend.

‘There can be no justification for these to continue,’ Dr Roach said.

The letter does not detail what age range the union would like to wear masks. The UK Government states children under 11 might be unable to wear a mask, while those under three should not for safety reasons.

Earlier this week, on Tuesday 23 November, there were 11 confirmed cases of Covid-19 amongst 880 staff in States-run schools.

There were also 176 students confirmed as infected, out of a total of 6,781 students.

Yesterday there were 747 known active cases across the whole Bailiwick, and the Civil Contingencies Authority dismissed rumours of an imminent lockdown or circuit breaker as completely unfounded.

NASUWT members have reported that a lack of robust protections in their workplaces has left them feeling at risk of contracting the virus and spreading it to their families.

They have highlighted that schools are now the only places where large groups of unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people congregate.

Dr Roach said there was no evidence-based justification for not applying increased precautions to schools.

‘Teachers are also experiencing significant increases in workload due to staff absences and being required to undertake excessive cover,’ he said.

‘This, combined with fear of contracting the virus, is having a significant impact on the mental health and wellbeing of staff, and there is a clear risk that the Covid-19 pandemic will be followed by a work-related stress epidemic in schools, and one that will be made all the worse if significant numbers of staff are unable to travel off-island at Christmas

due to infections contracted in school.

‘Many other countries in Europe that have kept in place mitigation measures in schools, while rolling out a vaccination programme, have not experienced the surge in cases that we have seen in Guernsey.’

Dr Roach concludes the letter by appealing for an urgent response from ESC.

The letter was made public late on Friday afternoon and the Guernsey Press has approached ESC for a comment.

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