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School to discuss wider use of face masks amid ‘dichotomy’ of second lockdown

PUBLISHED: 19:28 03 November 2020 | UPDATED: 19:28 03 November 2020

Coplestn High School is to discuss the possible wider use of face masks. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Coplestn High School is to discuss the possible wider use of face masks. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Charlotte Bond

Ipswich’s Copleston High School is to discuss the possible wider use of face masks – as its headteacher spoke of the “dichotomy” of the second coronavirus lockdown.

Copleston High School principal Andy Green said face masks had significant benefits in schools. Picture: COPLESTON HIGH SCHOOLCopleston High School principal Andy Green said face masks had significant benefits in schools. Picture: COPLESTON HIGH SCHOOL

Ipswich’s Copleston High School is to discuss the possible wider use of face masks – as its headteacher spoke of the “dichotomy” of the second coronavirus lockdown.

Principal Andy Green said: “I think everyone would acknowledge that schools being closed is not good for children’s wellbeing.

“However, there can be no doubt that keeping schools open has the potential to increase the R rate more than would be the case if schools were part of the lockdown. This was confirmed in the statistics that have been shown.”

Schools have been exempted from the second national lockdown starting on Thursday, as the government has said it is keen for young people’s education to continue.

They will still operate with strict Covid-secure measures, with classes staying in “bubbles” and one-way systems in place to limit any potential spread of the illness.

However, Graham White, from the Suffolk branch of the National Education Union (NEU), has called for schools to be part of the four-week lockdown – arguing that: “Social distancing at two metres is absolutely impossible in the classroom.”

Mr Green said: “If the modelling suggests that closing in November might have a significant impact and prevent longer closures later in the school year, that’s something that would be worth looking at.

“Keeping schools open now is a good thing to do, as long as there is a not a knock on effect later in the academic year

However, he said: “There’s an awful lot of evidence to suggest that face coverings are highly important.”

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Along with Chantry Academy, Copleston has already brought in rules saying students should wearing face coverings in communal areas, such as corridors.

However, Mr Green is this week set to meet with Copleston’s chairman of governors and leaders from the Gippeswyk Community Educational Trust – which runs the school – to discuss the possibility of widening the use of face coverings.

Before half-term, 330 of Copleston’s 2,000 students were self-isolating after five pupils and a member of staff contracted the virus.

Mr Green believes the government “should be in a position where education is always being reviewed” - so that schools can remain open if safe, but close if needed.

He re-emphasised the point that he made much earlier in the initial lockdown that “it is critical that schools have very high quality on-line learning platforms should there be any need to close schools either fully or partially in the future,” adding: “This is also essential to support self-isolating students”

Mr Green said: “The use of effective protective measures are critical in ensuring schools stay open.

“There’s an awful lot of evidence to suggest that face coverings, for example, are highly important as well as good ventilation.”

This is particularly in the light of more recent research, which shows talking, shouting or singing indoors can increase the risk of contagion - because those activities release more virus-laden particles into the air.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders and former long-serving headteacher of King Edward VII School in Bury St Edmunds, has suggested schools could move to a rota-based system at some point.

“Children only get one chance at education, and we have to do everything possible to provide continuity of learning,” he said.

“While scaling back the opening of schools is the last resort, we are conscious that rising Covid infection rates may mean that some restrictions may become necessary at some point.”


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