Students will be asked to wear masks in the classroom when they return to secondary schools in England this week.
Scientists have warned that more than a million children could become infected with Omicron’s new variant of Covid.
Education officials say the “short-term” recommendation will be reviewed on Jan. 26 but could be extended, reports The mirror
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The government also says it is buying around 7,000 air cleaning units for classrooms, especially those where windows cannot be opened.
But there are nearly 25,000 schools in England which means the vast majority will miss out on the equipment.
Dr. Mary Bousted, Joint Secretary General of the National Education Union, said: “Ultimately, the government has had to recognize and respond to the extent of the Omicron variant and its potential impact on education. The recommendation to wear face masks in secondary school classrooms is overdue – but should be a must. “
The number of air purification units was “totally inadequate for what should be a basic human right, providing clean air in every classroom,” she added.
Dr. Bousted continued, “The fact that the government provided the additional cleaners shows that they recognize the problem, but with over 300,000 classrooms in England, they have not found an effective solution.”
Schools across the UK are expected to be crippled by the absence of teachers when they return after the Christmas break this week as Omicron roams the UK.
The Ministry of Education then reduced the Ofsted inspections. There will be no secondary inspections this week, and schools severely affected by the staff’s illness may request a postponement of any visits that may have been scheduled beyond this.
However, teaching unions say more infection control measures are needed to ensure the worst-hit schools can stay open.
Dr. Bousted’s colleague Kevin Courtney fears that any attempt to convince retired teachers to take over the class will fail if they are not convinced they are safe.
The NEU’s deputy chief added: “Another mitigation would be to ask siblings of children who test positive to stay home until they test negative.
“This could also help encourage some retired employees to return.
“For a retiree, the question arises how much risk he is willing to take even though he is vaccinated.
“In the past tenure, teachers and other educational staff tested positive more often than other professionals.
“That led to a lot of disruption as the teachers had to be free. There was also a lack of supply staff.
“In some cases, this meant that the schools had a very difficult time and had to send some classes home in the last weeks of the semester. We want to avoid this disruption. “
Professor Christina Pagel, a researcher at University College London, has also warned of the dangers.
She said, “Once the infection rates are high in the community, infections get into schools and are transmitted very quickly. This is exactly what happened at Delta last season, where infection was confirmed in over a million five- to 14-year-olds. Omicron is more transmissible and we know that a previous infection won’t protect you from Omicron. “
Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson said the government should make stinging 12-15 year olds an urgent priority and urged ministers to “get hold of” the outbreak.
Ms. Phillipson added from the government, “Again they have failed to take the vacation to get the virus under control.”
Amid the spate of criticism, Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “The classroom is without a doubt the best place for children.”
Mr. Zahawi added, “I look forward to welcoming students back to continue their personal learning that is so important to their education and wellbeing.
“There is no doubt that the Omicron variant presents challenges, but the entire education sector has responded with a Herculean effort.
“The Prime Minister and I have made it clear that education is our top priority.
“These measures strengthen support for schools as we are doing everything in our power to minimize disruption.”
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