Children travelling to and from school should continue to wear masks – even though Leeds is not under local lockdown – an education chief has said, writes Richard Beecham.
It follows new government advice issued this week, which orders secondary school pupils in lockdown areas to wear face coverings between classrooms in an attempt to halt the spread of Covid-19.
Although the city is not currently under any local lockdown, Leeds City Council’s executive member for learning, Coun Jonathan Pryor (Lab) has called on pupils to take a “cautious approach”, adding that school headteachers should have the power to make the decision on whether to make masks compulsory.
He said: “It’s best to be cautious about things. It’s sensible for children and vulnerable people to wear masks on the bus to and from school. If they are travelling from room to room, it’s for individual schools to decide.”
The use of face coverings in schools had been opposed by the Government up until Tuesday night, when new guidance stated pupils should wear masks in school corridors. Coun Pryor believes the U-turn is a result of the Government not listening to teachers in the first place.
“I think any government needs to be willing to U-turn when they have got something wrong,” he said.
“But from the Government at the moment we are having U-turn after U-turn. They are not listening to people not only do they not know what they are doing, they are also not listening to the experts.
“Leeds has lower infection rates than those areas under local lockdown. We are confident we are not going into a local lockdown imminently but how schools reopen plays a big part in that – we ask schools in Leeds to keep in close contact with families around this.
“We are moving into a new normal,” he added.
“We are going to have to take a cautious approach. Leeds has done the right things that we need to.”
For the past few weeks, Neighbouring West Yorkshire districts Calderdale, Bradford and Kirklees saw local lockdowns introduced due to rising infection rates. Coun Pryor pointed out some schools in Leeds will have pupils living in these areas.
He added: “Individual schools near the border with other districts have different cohorts and different pupils It’s a bit stricter when they are at home, and we hope that children need to remain cautious – such as wearing masks on public transport and when they are not in their bubbles.”