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Chilwell school - guidance on mask wearing in school

This is to let you know that we would like to retain our current arrangements of wearing masks in social and communal areas and also classrooms until we reach half-term, which is 28th May. Please read below for the reasons behind this decision.

Many parents will already be aware of the prime minister's announcement yesterday of the relaxing of restrictions from 17th May. We are pleased that nationally we are seeing a reduction in fatalities and there is clearly an impact as a result of the vaccination programme.

We also received guidance from the Department of Education last night which gives information on prevention and response. The headline statement is as follows: "From 17 May, in line with Step 3 of the roadmap, face coverings will no longer be recommended for pupils in classrooms or communal areas in all schools. Face coverings will also no longer be recommended for staff in classrooms."

There is further detail, however, which makes it clear that "the reintroduction of face coverings for pupils, students or staff may be advised for a temporary period in response to particular localised outbreaks, including variants of concern. In all cases, any educational drawbacks should be balanced with the benefits of managing transmission."

I have been really grateful for the way that our community has supported us in trying to ensure that transmission is kept low. You may remember that we were one of the first schools to make it clear that we were extending the use of masks into classrooms at the start of the spring term through my WeDuc message to you on 30th December, repeated on the school website, before the government decided we were to move into another lockdown. We have been well supported, clear and also fortunate up to this point.

Over the last week we have seen a significant outbreak in Long Eaton, leading to the shutting of Wilsthorpe school to all students. At Chilwell we have had a positive case at the end of last week, meaning I had to send home some staff and students and this morning we have been informed of another case which has resulted in needing to send home over twenty year eleven students.

It is really challenging to have to send students and staff away and I want to do everything possible to ensure that we can keep going as a school.

In the light of local circumstances, with two cases in a couple of days affecting a large number of students here, and the significant number of cases in the next town, we intend to continue the expectation that staff and students retain our current arrangements of wearing masks in social and communal areas and also classrooms until we reach half-term, which is 28th May. This would give us the opportunity to then re-evaluate the local situation.

We have never sanctioned students who have not worn masks and so parents and students are free to make their own decision, but I am asking for your support to keep our current arrangements in place for an additional two weeks.

I have spoken with Public Health who have made it clear that they do not classify the current local situation as an outbreak.  They have stated that in the event that there were an outbreak at Chilwell School, local partners would identify appropriate actions at that time through an incident management team and rules about face coverings could be reconsidered as part of this. I am concerned that this may be too late. I have discussed this with our chair of governors, who supports this decision. 

None of us enjoy the current restrictions and I am sorry if this is not welcome news, but in assessing the local situation, it is a decision that I am happy is one that best protects our students, staff and community. I am asking for your support in seeing this through.

David Phillips

Head teacher