The first data on what percentage of secondary school students in England wear masks and choose to have Covid tests in school has been released.
A quick poll by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) was released as millions of students returned to class after months of distance learning.
Most schools had welcome news about taking tests and wearing masks – but a minority of schools reported more serious problems.
One in 50 schools said that mask compliance was below 70 percent, while six percent of schools said that on-site Covid test uptake was below 60 percent.
The survey found that more than half of secondary schools and colleges in England, almost all of their students, opted for voluntary on-site coronavirus testing on their return to class.
Almost three in four school principals (73%) said more than 90% of students had followed guidelines for face covering in classrooms.
The first data came as millions of students returned to class after months of distance learning.
Children Minister Vicky Ford said today that secondary school students in England will not be forced to wear face covers in classrooms on their return as some will be “anxious and nervous” to wear them.
However, she insisted that secondary and college students should be “strongly encouraged” to wear face-covering when social distancing cannot be maintained, including in class, as outlined in government guidelines.
In addition, secondary school students are asked to take three voluntary Covid-19 tests on site and one at home during the first fourteen days. You will then be sent home to use twice a week.
Elementary school children are not asked to take Covid-19 tests or wear face covers.
Ms. Ford initially sparked confusion on Monday after she said a child who tested positive for Covid-19 on a lateral flow test but subsequently received a negative PCR result should not be returned to class.
However, Downing Street later confirmed that students who react positive to Covid-19 in rapid tests done at home rather than at school will receive a PCR test that could allow them to return to class.
Almost a quarter (24%) have had Covid tests between 80% and 89%, while acceptance was below 60% in just 6% of schools, according to the ASCL survey.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of ASCL, said the first signs are “very encouraging” and the feedback suggests that the visit to most schools was “good”.
He said: “The requirement to have Covid testing on site has been particularly onerous, and the introduction of face coverings in classrooms has opened a minefield for them to navigate.
“We know schools took a lot of time and effort to get parental consent for on-site Covid testing, and this has clearly proven particularly difficult in some places.
“While most students and parents support schools on the sensitive issue of face covering, it seems that some don’t.
“We encourage all parents and students to follow their school’s rules of face covering, which is consistent with public health guidelines and is for the good of all.”
ASCL provides members with a template letter that they can use in response to letters received by some schools in which they have objected to the use of face coverings.
The letter said that if a high percentage of students do not wear face masks, it undermines a school’s risk assessment, creates health and safety problems, and could have insurance consequences.
Gateacre School, a secondary school in Liverpool, has considered sanctions for children who do not wear a face mask.
Headmaster Gareth Jones said there would be discussions with students and parents about how to enforce the rule.
When asked if schools that do not wear a lot of masks should be closed, Ms. Ford told BBC Radio 4’s Today program, “No, I think we should strongly encourage them to wear the masks. I think the vast majority of young people get this.
“But there will be some who are very worried and nervous and that’s why we understand that and that’s why we didn’t make it mandatory, but we strongly encouraged it.”
Dr. Mary Bousted, general secretary of the National Education Union (NEW), described Ms. Ford’s comments on face covering before schools fully reopen as “bad form”.
Speaking to Sky News, Dr. Bousted: “I think government ministers really need to think carefully. They said to the schools, “We expect masks to be worn in all secondary schools in the classroom and in the corridor.”
“If that’s what you expect, you shouldn’t be aware of it before launching.” They should help schools ensure that masks are worn. “