THE RETURN OF face masksEducation leaders in Oxfordshire have welcomed the opportunity to test secondary schools in their classrooms as well as on-site.
These measures were taken by the Government before students return to school this week after the Christmas break.
Rob Pavey, headteacher, Cheney School, Headington, said masksIt would lower the number students who catch Covid.
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He said: “For us, it makes no difference as we’d been using face masksIn classrooms before Christmas
“At a certain point, we have to go back to normal and treat it like the flu but when that point is coming, we don’t know.
“Omicron has a high transmission rate but is less deadly. Masks help with lowering the transmission rate.”
Despite recent difficulties in accessing lateral flows tests among the general public Mr Pavey stated that placing orders prior to Christmas had prevented this particular problem.
“The supply of lateral flow tests is fine, we got a supply before the Christmas holidays,”He said.
“There’ll be no disruption to learning doing the tests, it’s an extra piece of work for us but the kids know what they’re doing.
“Masks and lateral flow testing are not a big problem, it’s a bit tedious and a bit of a pain but it won’t stop education.
“The thing that will stop education is staff absence.
“We’ve got a number of staff who are self-isolating and we had extended periods last term when between 10 and 20 per cent of staff were absent, but we managed it with cover.”
The Ridgeway Education Trust oversees Didcot Girls’ School and St Birinus School – in addition to Sutton Courtenay CE Primary School and Didcot Sixth Form.
The trust’s executive headteacher Rachael Warwick said masksThey were detrimental to communication in classrooms, but they were acknowledged as important.
She said: “We were advised before the holidays to bring masksWe were already doing this in communal areas.
“It’s not great for the quality of dialogue in the classroom but we’re not scientists so we follow the advice from them and Public Health England.
“These are measures which will limit the number of cases, as our priority is keeping children in schools.”
Mrs Warwick also stated that lateral flow tests are available and that schools face greater danger from staff absences.
She said: “Our supplies were ordered before the holidays and arrived before the end of term.
“While the public generally has struggled for tests, we have enough to give out to families so they can test twice a week at home.
“The real concern is the level of staff absences. I know colleagues in London who don’t have enough staff.”
Ian Corkin, Oxfordshire County Council’s chair of the people overview and scrutiny committee, added: “Schools were able to order and take in delivery of lateral flow tests before Christmas so they were ahead of the curve.
“It’s a burden on schools of course, to be wearing masks but keeping kids in education is so important.”