ESC chief hits back at union’s criticism of school Covid measures

EDUCATION has hit back at a teacher union’s claims that its handling of the pandemic in schools has been poor.

Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen.. (30249464)
Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen.. (30249464)

Its president, Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen, said while constructive engagement with unions was healthy, it was disappointing that NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach had not checked his facts before airing his concerns publicly.

Dr Roach argues that Guernsey has some of the weakest mitigation in schools to stop the virus’s spread and he said teachers want the wearing of masks to be compulsory in schools to avoid a work-related stress epidemic within the profession.

But Deputy Dudley-Owen said she believed the latest data showed that her committee was managing the implications of Covid-19 well and minimising disruption to students as much as possible.

‘Having said that, we know the staff are really stretched at the moment, largely caused by absences – both student and staff – caused by those with symptoms staying at home until they have received a negative PCR test result and an increase in workload as a result of undertaking contact tracing administration.’

She said it appeared that Dr Roach was advocating for pupils of all ages to wear masks at school.

‘As a parent of school-age children myself, I cannot agree with the suggestion that children as young as five should be forced to wear a face covering all day,’ said Deputy Dudley-Owen.

‘I don’t believe parents would support that either. It feels entirely disproportionate to the risk and data around the number of cases.

‘It is also counter to Public Health guidance around the wearing of face coverings.’

The committee had continued to promote the wearing of face coverings on school grounds and had received an excellent response from parents and carers, she said.

‘It has undoubtedly been a challenge to get a high take-up of mask wearing among secondary students as a collective.

‘We are currently reviewing our policy on the requirement for students to wear face coverings in secondary and post-16 education and will provide a further statement on that early [this] week.’

But Deputy Gavin St Pier queried why it was any different to enforcing any other rules or uniform requirements.

‘Just make it a rule rather than recommendation,’ he suggested on social media over the weekend.

He said the emergence of Omicron meant ESC needed to up its game.

‘It’s time to stop hand wringing, waiting for someone else to make a decision and for Education to step up and provide leadership and direction.’

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