Parents fight back after schools vowed to defy end of Plan B and force pupils ...

Parents fight back after schools vowed to defy end of Plan B and force pupils ...
Parents fight back after schools vowed to defy end of Plan B and force pupils ...

Parents have launched a campaign to prevent ‘overzealous’ schools from imposing masks in schools after teaching unions threatened to derail Boris Johnson’s easing of Covid curbs.

Head teachers in England are set to ignore the Prime Minister’s bonfire of Plan B restrictions by compelling pupils to keep covering their faces in classrooms.

Britain’s big teaching unions have accused the embattled Tory leader of making the decision to save his own political career as he handles the fallout from ‘Partygate’, rather than basing it on ‘sound public health and scientific advice’. 

The National Education Union warned against lifting Omicron measures ‘too quickly’, claiming it could lead to ‘more disruption’ for schools.

Its general secretary Dr Mary Bousted called the removal of masks ‘premature’, adding: ‘Rather than announcements aimed at saving Boris Johnson’s job, (the) Government should be exercising a duty of care to the nation’s pupils and the staff who educate them.’

Geoff Barton, the ASCL’s boss, said: ‘There is a danger that we are heading once again for a situation in which the Government gives the impression that the crisis is over when in actual fact there is huge disruption continuing to take place in education’.

Parent group UsForThem, which campaigned to get classrooms reopened during the pandemic, has now urged its supporters to bombard MPs and ministers with letters to ‘stop overzealous local public health authorities from unilaterally implementing face masks in schools’.

Mr Johnson’s easing of Omicron curbs was also welcomed by senior Conservative backbencher Robert Halfon and the National Deaf Children’s Society.

It comes as a recent poll by parent voice charity Parentkind found that nearly two thirds of parents of secondary school children are not in favour of masks in the classroom. There was less opposition among parents to coverings in communal school areas. 

Schools are preparing to defy the Prime Minister by ordering children to continue wearing masks in classrooms

In a statement to MPs in the Commons yesterday, Boris Johnson announced WFH guidance would be immediately dropped and rules on masks in schools would also be scrapped from today. Other restrictions including compulsory face coverings on public transport and in shops will end next Thursday

In a statement to MPs in the Commons yesterday, Boris Johnson announced WFH guidance would be immediately dropped and rules on masks in schools would also be scrapped from today. Other restrictions including compulsory face coverings on public transport and in shops will end next Thursday

So what is changing... and when will it happen? Your guide to the post-curb rules as Boris Johnson announces the end of Covid Plan B restrictions 

IMMEDIATELY

WORKING FROM HOME 

The Prime Minister said the Government is no longer asking people to work from home. He called on people to speak to their employers about arrangements for returning to the office.

FROM TODAY

MASKS IN SCHOOLS

From today, secondary school pupils will not have to wear face coverings in classrooms.

The requirement to wear masks in corridors and other communal areas will end next Thursday, January 27.

FROM NEXT THURSDAY

MASKS IN PUBLIC PLACES

From next Thursday, the Government will no longer legally mandate the wearing of face coverings in shops and on public transport.

But they will continue to suggest masks should be worn in enclosed and crowded places where people could come into contact with those they do not normally meet.

The Prime Minister said this meant the Government will 'trust the judgment of the British people and no longer criminalise anyone who chooses not to wear one'.

COVID PASSPORTS

Proof of vaccination or a recent negative test will no longer be needed to enter nightclubs and large venues from next Thursday.

But businesses will still be free to use the NHS Covid Pass if they want.

BY THE END OF THE MONTH

TRAVEL

An announcement is expected soon on scrapping the requirement for fully vaccinated travellers to take a Covid test on returning to England.

No 10 said the rules will be reviewed by the end of January.

CARE HOMES

Plans to ease restrictions on care home visits will be announced in the next few days. At present, care homes must impose severe restrictions on visitors for up to 28 days if there has been a Covid outbreak affecting two or more residents.

BY MARCH AT THE LATEST

SELF-ISOLATION

Boris Johnson said he 'very much expects' not to renew the legal requirement to self-isolate with Covid when the rules lapse on March 24.

He said this could happen even earlier, if the data allows.

The legal requirement will be replaced with guidance that urges people with the virus to be careful and considerate of others.

BY JULY

FREE TESTS

Free Covid lateral flow tests look set to be scrapped by July.

People will be pointed towards an online ordering system to purchase the tests, which cost £30 for a pack of seven.

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The draft letter by UsForThem warns that unless the Government steps in to ‘curtail the abilities of local authorities to introduce measures themselves, I fear that millions of children will still be subjected to masks in schools for months to come’.

‘To reverse the damage, the new guidance you issue must be extremely strongly worded indeed,’ the letter adds.

‘You should certainly forbid local authorities from unilaterally implementing face masks in schools. In some US states where governors have banned mask mandates, they have protected children by making legal provision for parental opt-out.’

In a statement to the Commons yesterday, Mr Johnson announced WFH guidance would be dropped immediately and rules on masks in schools would also be scrapped from today. Other restrictions including compulsory face coverings on public transport and in shops, and Covid passes for entry to nightclubs and large events will end next Thursday.

And the legal requirement for people with Covid to isolate will also be allowed to lapse when the regulations expire on March 24.

The move could help appease Mr Johnson’s Tory critics after a ‘Pork Pie Putsch’ against the PM over the lockdown party scandal melted away last night.

Head teachers wrote to parents after Mr Johnson’s announcement to say that they would like children to continue wearing masks.

Andy Byers, head of a state secondary in Durham, said the PM’s Plan B U-turn ‘creates some difficulty for us’.

‘Case rates in the northeast are still relatively high. We currently have 60+ students and ten staff absent, having tested positive. A small proportion of those people have been quite poorly,’ he said.

‘Other local secondary schools are all in a similar position: high levels of absence with some students missing important face-to-face teaching, and a reliance on supply teachers covering lessons.

‘For this reason I would like to encourage students to continue wearing face coverings for the next two or three weeks until (hopefully) case numbers fall.’

A spokeswoman for school leaders’s union NAHT admitted that there is ‘some concern’ about the easing of Plan B measures.

Its general secretary Paul Whiteman said: ‘The Prime Minister’s statement about lifting plan B measures will feel, to many school leaders, at odds with the current situation on the ground.

‘Mass disruption is ongoing, with high numbers of staff and pupils absent. School leaders are telling us they still feel very much in the eye of the Covid storm.’

It comes as business chiefs hailed yesterday’s WFH announcement, calling it ‘great news for small businesses and city centres that rely on office workers’.

And nightclub bosses indicated that they won’t continue enforcing Covid passes after next Thursday, telling Radio 4’s Today programme that there is ‘no proof anywhere in the world that nightclubs are any worse than any indoor setting’ for virus transmission. 

However, London Mayor Sadiq Khan put himself at odds with the PM by ordering TfL customers to continue wearing masks on TfL Tube and bus services. 

Britain’s top medics also insisted that scrapping Covid curbs at such pace ‘risks creating a false sense of security’ with the NHS still under pressure. 

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association council, said: ‘This decision clearly is not guided by the data. When Plan B was introduced in December, there were 7,373 patients in hospital in the UK. The latest data this week shows there are 18,9791.’

He warned that ending mandates on mask-wearing would ‘inevitably increase transmission’ and place the most vulnerable at a higher risk.

And Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation representing health bodies, said now ‘is not the time for complacency about this virus’.

Deputy chief executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery said that some trusts had reported they were expecting their peak later this week despite a fall in case numbers nationally due to regional variations in the number of hospital admissions.

‘That's why it's important that there is recognition that this surge isn't over, and that the health service is still operating under extremely challenging circumstances,’ she added.  

However, business chiefs cheered the latest easing. Kevin Ellis, chairman of PwC UK, told the Times: ‘The No1 question I’m being asked from our people is when can we get back to the office – they value time with colleagues, alongside the flexibility to work from home.

‘After the last lockdown restrictions were lifted, it took us two months to get back to 80 per cent capacity. We’re expecting a faster bounce-back now – people know the drill’.

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