Will Plan B Do Anything To Stop Omicron? Experts Say Some Restrictions Are Entirely Pointless

Teaching unions accused Whitehall of 'micro-management' after a mask row 

  • Schools across England are in open rebellion against Government over masks 

  • More than 100 head teachers have said children must still wear face coverings 

  • It also emerged that the Government can't do anything to stop schools 

  • However,  Nadhim Zahawi said he will vet plans to wear masks in classrooms 

  • Has your child been sent home for refusing to wear a mask? Email: [email protected] 

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    Furious teaching unions today accused Whitehall of trying to ‘micromanage’ schools after Cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi emailed MPs saying he will personally vet any plans to bring back masks in classrooms.

    The Education Secretary last night said that local officials would seek to persuade individual schools to abandon masks.

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    He insisted that ‘face-to-face education for all students has consistently been my priority’, adding: ‘National guidance to wear face coverings in communal areas will also be removed in line with the national move out of Plan B. This applies to all schools’.

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    Has your child been sent home for refusing to wear a mask?

    Email: [email protected] 

    But in a letter to MPs, he admitted that masks could be reintroduced in the event of an ‘extraordinary’ local Covid outbreak.

    The NEU’s Dr Mary Bousted today raged that ministers seeking to ‘micromanage such decisions seems utterly unnecessary, if not bizarre’. 

    It came as schools across England were in open rebellion against the Government over masks after more than 100 head teachers wrote to parents warning that children must continue wearing face coverings in classrooms.

    Union bosses stoked the fires of revolt this week after accusing Boris Johnson of flouting his ‘duty of care’ to teachers over the new guidance on masks.

    The Prime Minister this week announced an easing of Covid curbs, from WFH guidance to face coverings and Covid isolation, as the Omicron wave subsides.

    But critics have claimed that Mr Johnson is axing virus restrictions to appease his Tory backbench and save his own skin as he fights for his political career amid the dramatic fallout from ‘Partygate’.

    Schools are defying the Government’s anti-mask guidance and telling parents that pupils must continue to wear face coverings.

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    Year 10 and 11 students at Hailsham Community College in East Sussex wearing masks in the classroom
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    Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi told MPs he will personally vet any plans to bring back masks in classrooms

    So what is changing... and when will it happen? The post-curb rules after Boris Johnson announced the end of Covid Plan B restrictions 

    IMMEDIATELY

    WORKING FROM HOME 

    The Prime Minister said the Government is no longer asking people to work from home. He called on people to speak to their employers about arrangements for returning to the office.

    FROM YESTERDAY

    MASKS IN SCHOOLS

    From yesterday, secondary school pupils will not have to wear face coverings in classrooms.

    The requirement to wear masks in corridors and other communal areas will end next Thursday, January 27.

    FROM NEXT THURSDAY

    MASKS IN PUBLIC PLACES

    From next Thursday, the Government will no longer legally mandate the wearing of face coverings in shops and on public transport.

    But they will continue to suggest masks should be worn in enclosed and crowded places where people could come into contact with those they do not normally meet.

    The Prime Minister said this meant the Government will 'trust the judgment of the British people and no longer criminalise anyone who chooses not to wear one'.

    COVID PASSPORTS

    Proof of vaccination or a recent negative test will no longer be needed to enter nightclubs and large venues from next Thursday.

    But businesses will still be free to use the NHS Covid Pass if they want.

    BY THE END OF THE MONTH

    TRAVEL

    An announcement is expected soon on scrapping the requirement for fully vaccinated travellers to take a Covid test on returning to England.

    No 10 said the rules will be reviewed by the end of January.

    CARE HOMES

    Plans to ease restrictions on care home visits will be announced in the next few days. At present, care homes must impose severe restrictions on visitors for up to 28 days if there has been a Covid outbreak affecting two or more residents.

    BY MARCH AT THE LATEST

    SELF-ISOLATION

    Boris Johnson said he 'very much expects' not to renew the legal requirement to self-isolate with Covid when the rules lapse on March 24.

    He said this could happen even earlier, if the data allows.

    The legal requirement will be replaced with guidance that urges people with the virus to be careful and considerate of others.

    BY JULY

    FREE TESTS

    Free Covid lateral flow tests look set to be scrapped by July.

    People will be pointed towards an online ordering system to purchase the tests, which cost £30 for a pack of seven.

    She said: 'Schools and colleges who take the decision to keep face coverings as a requirement in classrooms will have done so following a risk assessment, and with the head using his or her professional judgement and knowledge about what's best for the school to protect face-to-face education. 

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    'This is a sensible precaution, particularly given we are now in the run-up to national examinations and the issues to education caused by staff and pupil absences.' 

    Geoff Barton, chief of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said schools were 'put in a potentially difficult position' following Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement on Wednesday that face masks would no longer be needed in classrooms from Thursday.

    'The Government's own guidance says that directors of public health may advise that face masks are needed in classrooms in response to local circumstances,' Mr Barton said.

    'But schools are unlikely to have had any time in which to consult them, or in which to communicate the changes with parents and staff.

    'It is therefore not surprising if some schools have continued to use face masks for the time being while they resolve these issues.'

    Pepe Di'Iasio, a former ASCL president and headteacher at Wales High School in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, said new safety measures for schools need to be carefully communicated with pupils.

    He said his school will tell pupils they should no longer wear masks in classrooms, while it will no longer be compulsory for them to be worn in corridors from next week.

    On the Prime Minister's announcement, he said: 'I was disappointed that we were suddenly working to dates and not data - all the way through this we've been talking about looking at data and all of a sudden now we're working to a date.'

    He said his school is not seeing high Covid case rates but he added the timing of the announcement made communicating changes with pupils more difficult.

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    'We were all anticipating an announcement on the 26th and what we've now got is a difficulty with our students, because they will have heard the announcement at the same time as us, and so some of them will be saying, 'I no longer need to wear my mask anymore, do I?' It's about just having the clarity of those boundaries,' he said.

    'Students are quite straightforward so some of them will think that if they don't have to wear them there anymore, does that mean I don't have to wear them anywhere anymore, and that isn't necessarily what the guidance is saying.'

    He said the school will need to communicate with pupils that they might still need to wear masks on the private buses that take them to and from school, for instance. 

    Head teachers across the country say that they are struggling either with staff shortages or high rates of Covid in the local community – and argue that masks in classrooms will stem the spread of the virus.

    New data from the UK Health Security Agency shows that the rate of new Covid cases among primary schoolchildren in England rose 41 per cent in the week to January 16 to 1,936 cases per 100,000 five to nine-year-olds.

    Schools North East, a network in the North East of England, said 80 per cent of schools in the region planned to retain some Covid-related measures, with many secondary schools retaining face masks in classrooms and communal areas.

    Head teacher Andy Byers, who runs Framwellgate school in Durham, also said masks were still needed because Covid rates in the region remained high. 

    A DfE insider told MailOnline that the Government does not have a legal mechanism to force schools to follow the new guidance on dropping masks.

    'The guidance that we've got on dropping face masks in line with Plan B is exactly that: guidance,' they claimed. 

    'We do expect schools to follow it, but we do not have a legal mechanism to coerce schools into doing so. We do, however, expect that if schools do want to keep face masks, there would be a good reason for doing so.

    'We want to work with and support schools, and not take punitive action against them.'

    In a round of interviews this morning, Cabinet minister Kwasi Kwarteng said schools should follow the official guidance on mask-wearing.

    The Business Secretary told Sky News: 'The guidance from the Prime Minister is very clear: that we won't need to be wearing masks.'

    Chris Zarraga, the director of Schools North East, told The Guardian: 'Schools are still facing real challenges in getting staff cover, increasing staff workload and stress and impacting negatively on wellbeing.

    'There are serious concerns for schools, with local pictures often radically different from the national picture.'

    Shuttleworth College in Burnley told parents it would 'not be removing any of our measures in school at this time', citing high Covid cases.

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    Teaching unions hit back at Mr Zahawi, accusing Whitehall of 'micro-management' in an 'utterly unnecessary, if not bizarre' way
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    Parents have launched a campaign to prevent ‘overzealous’ schools from imposing masks
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    Source : https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10427049/amp/Unions-accuse-Whitehall-micro-management-Nadhim-Zahawi-mask-row.html

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