The director of Public Health for Bradford Council and the president of the National Education Union in Bradford are calling for schools to defy Government advice and keep masks on in school.
Boris Johnson announced in parliament on Wednesday that pupils in secondary school do not need to wear masks in classrooms as of yesterday. Pupils will not need to wear them in hallways or communal areas from Thursday 27 January, the Department for Education said.
The advice comes amid calls for the prime minister to resign or be sacked following allegations of parties, bullying, and Covid-19 rule-breaking by Conservative party members and staffers at Downing Street during the first pandemic lockdown in 2020.
Ian Murch, president of the NEU for Bradford, said: “We are not welcoming the Government’s advice for school children to stop wearing masks in school buildings.
“Case levels in Bradford are the highest they have ever been and rising each week. It makes no sense to end protective measures at this particular point.
“Schools in the area don’t need us to call on them to enforce the rules as I think they are all pretty much of the same mind.
“There is a huge number of staff and pupils off ill with Covid-19 in Bradford, it makes no sense to make it even worse.”
Last week, 2,000 people in schools tested positive for the virus, with a third of those being staff members.
“Nearly 700 staff out of schools with one illness in just Bradford is extremely high.
“The motives to remove protective measures in schools appear to be political within the Conservative Party rather than based on the evidence.”
The Director of Public Health for Bradford, Sarah Muckle has written to schools across the district to advise them to maintain protective measures in communal spaces until it is safe to drop them.
She said: “We are focussed on keeping children and young people in school and learning face-to-face as much as possible.
“The national guidance for schools provides leeway for local Directors of Public Health to advise that some safety measures are maintained if there are substantial numbers of positive cases in schools or outbreaks.
“Due to the high number of cases currently affecting our schools we have advised schools to retain masks in these situations and keep current safety measures, including face coverings in crowded spaces, until the end of January.
“Last week we had more than 2,000 cases of Covid-19 among pupils and staff reported to us from our schools. We have had almost that number reported already this week.
“The number of Covid-19 patients is still rising in our hospitals and although in the last few days there have been signs of the number of infections falling in total in the district, we have not seen that fall yet in the 10-14-year-old age group.
“We are still seeing significant disruption to education due to Covid-19 and we believe this measure will help to reduce the impact of COVID on our children’s education and reduce the spread of the virus.
“We will review the data at the end of next week.”
However, schools in Bradford are choosing to follow national guidance instead.
Jon Skurr, executive headteacher at Carlton Bolling and Carlton Keighley, said: “As a school we are following Government guidance, meaning that pupils do not need to wear masks in classrooms, but they need to wear them in communal areas until next week.
“We feel that we would be misleading parents if they see that pupils in England do not need to wear masks and we are telling them something different.
“It is also best for the young people for the masks to go – safety is paramount, but we want our young people to be able to learn without restrictions.”
Feversham Academy, Ilkley Grammar School, and Beckfoot Upper Heaton are among schools following national guidance in the district.