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School orders pupils to wear masks at all times

Face coverings will be mandatory at Manchester King David; other schools reconsider policies before new term

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Pupils at one Jewish secondary will be required to wear masks when they return next week for the start of the new academic year and other schools are pondering their options in light of changing government advice.

Masks will be compulsory even in class at Manchester King David High, which took the decision before new social distancing measures were ordered in the city because of high rates of Covid-19 transmission.

Parents were told some weeks ago that the school would be implementing stricter measures because it considered the general guidance for schools at the time “do not deal adequately with the significant risk”.

JFS said it was planning to update parents on Friday. It has sent out a form to be completed if a student has returned on or after August 19 from a country for which a 14-day quarantine period is required. The school says the quarantine must be completed before they can return.

The headteacher of Immanuel College in Bushey, Gary Griffin, said its “current policy is for masks only on the school coaches. But, of course, with government policy changing daily, we will keep this under review.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said on Monday that the government was changing its position on masks for those aged 12 and above following new advice from the World Health Organisation.

Schools would have the discretion to ask for masks to be worn in communal areas, he said.

In locations where there was higher transmission of the virus, masks should be worn by adults and pupils in secondary schools when moving around the school, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain. They would not, however, be necessary in the classroom.

But King David insists that masks should be worn “at all times”. They were “absolutely mandatory — however uncomfortable. They are a lot less uncomfortable than Covid.”

When not worn, they should be safely stored but not left on chairs or desks. The school will be taking other measures to ensure safety for the new term including a thermal monitoring station, which will automatically take the temperature of those entering.

One-directional seating will mean pupils do not sit opposite each other. Forty-seven hand sanitisers have been installed and the dining room will be limited to 100 pupils at a time.

Senior leaders of the Hasmonean High Schools in North-West London were due to discuss their policy on Thursday. The Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School in Stamford Hill said it would not insist on masks “at the moment” but would reassess its position if government guidance changed.

Ensuring that all pupils go back to school has become a priority for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

While some year groups did return to school towards the end of the summer term, Nancy Reuben Primary in Hendon managed to accommodate all its classes. “Some parents wore masks in the playground when collecting but the overwhelming majority did not,” said Nancy Reuben headteacher Anthony Wolfson. “Staff did not wear masks at any time and we will not be mandating the wearing of masks in September. Our protective measures already mean the risks are lower.”

But “if rates of transmission significantly increase and the government guidance changes, then we will respond accordingly”.

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