Although face coverings are no longer recommended by the Government, the NEU encourages schools and other settings to adopt an agile approach and respond appropriately and proportionately to spikes and outbreaks by reinstating the wearing of masks as part of risk assessments and in response to local public health guidance. This is in line with DfE guidance which states that schools need to be ready with contingency plans to step up guidance where required.
- The NEU believes any students or members of staff who choose to wear a face covering for purposes of personal or collective reassurance should be permitted to do so. The union expects schools and colleges to respect this reasonable position. This reflects the Health and Safety Executive’s advice that, if staff choose to wear face coverings, this should be supported by employers. Should any head teacher seek to prevent the wearing of face coverings, the NEU will support members who wish to secure a reversal of that position.
- We recommend the use of reusable face coverings rather than disposable ones on environmental grounds. DfE guidance is clear that no pupil should be denied education on the grounds that they are, or are not, wearing a face covering.
- Where PPE is needed, it must be appropriate for the individual and training must be given in its proper use and disposal – hearing aid users cannot wear ties around the ears, while British Sign Language users or those who need children to see their mouth will need clear masks.
- FFP2/3 masks should be made available to staff who were previously classified as clinically extremely vulnerable or otherwise at significantly greater risk, and any member of staff who is anxious about their situation.