Ministers must give clear guidance on face coverings in schools, says Oxfordshire Head Teacher

Sarah Brinkley claims there is a “unanimous chorus” from schools calling for a stronger stance from the Government.

Face coverings should be worn in communal areas by secondary pupils and staff in local lockdown areas of England, and at the discretion of post-primary schools across the rest of the country, the Government announced in another policy U-turn on Tuesday night.

But Sarah Brinkley, who is executive Head Teacher for John Mason School and Fitzharrys School in Abingdon, and a member of the Association of School and College Leaders, said mask-wearing policies should not be discretionary for individual schools.

“Just tell us. We are not medically trained, what we do is teach children … to put that decision at our feet, I think, is passing the buck,” the 49-year-old told the PA news agency.

“It’s a standing joke in the teacher community that the (Department of Education) guidance is a bit like the pirate’s code in Pirates Of The Caribbean – it’s just guidance.

“And that’s ridiculous. It’s a pandemic. It’s not a joke. Clear guidance is needed because people’s lives are at stake.

“When we first went to lockdown, I had an email from a parent – he said if my child dies of coronavirus, I will hold you personally responsible.

“If that’s how people are feeling, because people get scared, then what you need is strong, true leadership… the U-turns (from the Government) don’t show strength.”

Ms Brinkley said her schools had already independently performed a risk assessment before the latest U-turn and are recommending students wear a covering between lessons, but this will not be policed.

Pupils who wish to wear masks in class will be allowed if they have a “good reason” to do so.

Ms Brinkley added that pupils in Oxfordshire are being underestimated in their ability to understand and abide by health and safety issues surrounding Covid-19.

“Let’s not underestimate what these young people understand about what’s happening in the world,” she said.

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