The U turn that the Government has made in the last few hours regards allowing Schools to determine if mask wearing can take place on their premises. This is very good but it has come far too late and makes our Government look incompetent yet again by comparison with the other decision makers within our nation. For the last few days the Government and a number of their MPs have been criticising the WHO and the Teaching Unions for asking for Schools to be able to use face masks and for Head Teachers to be able to decide if they are acceptable as part of their arrangements. Finally after several days the Government has changed its mind. The comment a couple of days ago from the Winchester MP Steve Brine was a classic example from one Conservative MP who wanted to support his bosses. Sadly he was not willing to reject their approach and instead wanted to criticise the people who over the next year will be working very hard to try to protect our children while they are being educated under very challenging circumstances.
This needs to stop. I think I know where the British public are on this debate and the teaching unions had better get on the right side of such for the first time in this pandemic.
His comment which I focused on yesterday came while the Government Ministers had been insisting for several days that there would be no change to guidelines, which stated that face coverings were “not recommended” in schools. Steve Brine in his comment was pointing towards a BBC online news item that referred to
The National Education Union (NEU) accused the government of letting down pupils, teachers and parents by failing to have a “plan B” if infections rise…Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU said the union agreed about the benefits of pupils returning to full-time education, but ministers needed to provide more information on what to do in the event of an outbreak.
It has now been agreed that not only can Schools determine if mask wearing is required at any point but indeed if there are lockdown arrangements in a given area that the year 7 and above students are obliged to wear face masks in corridors, which is something that the Government refused to agree to up until late yesterday. This came four days after the WHO called for 12 year old students to be required to wear masks in Schools. According to the Daily Telegraph about 6 hours ago
Prof Susan Michie, a member of the Sage sub group on behaviours (SPI-B), said she was in favour of masks at secondary school, if it was carefully managed. But she said: “It does seem on this, as with many things, that the Government is on the back foot.” “The problem about face masks is that if people fiddle with them, it can make things worse.” Pressure on Mr Johnson to change tack had built steadily over the previous 24 hours, starting with Ms Sturgeon’s decision on Monday to introduce masks in schools, which was followed on Tuesday by the Welsh Government and then London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who said he was looking to introduce masks in schools in the capital and criticised the Government for being slow to respond to the latest health advice. Other councils were also preparing to change their advice even before the Government moved.
It is clearly important that the Government is not forced into dealing with every set of issues but given that they were quick to get involved in the debate regarding whether certain songs could be sung or indeed need to be sung as part of the last night of the Proms it would be worth suggesting that they focus on the more important issues with a bit more time and attention. My own view is that the Rule Britannia song means very little to me and indeed it neither saves nor kills people. Nevertheless it seems perfectly reasonable for changes to take place and new ways of working to happen. However these thoughts have very little concern by comparison with the much more challenging issues facing our nation as our Schools begin to return in the next few days.