A teaching union has called on Guernsey's government to make masks mandatory in all areas of schools, because of the spike in coronavirus cases.
The NASUWT also wants whole school assemblies and in-person staff and parent meetings paused, and for any non-essential activities to be postponed or cancelled.
It is strongly recommended that face coverings are worn in secondary schools where distancing isn't possible. They have to be worn on public transport.
It's strongly recommended that adults in primary schools wear a mask where distancing isn't possible.
The States of Guernsey is not asking students or staff to wear them in classrooms.
The union says if safety measures aren't reintroduced, children's education will continue to be disrupted and the safety and welfare of school staff, pupils, and the wider community will be put at risk.
"Schools in Guernsey currently have some of the lowest levels of Covid safety mitigations. Face coverings, though recommended, are seldom worn by pupils in communal areas. Carbon dioxide detectors have not been rolled out in the same way as in other jurisdictions.
"At a time when we are seeing an exponential rise in cases, with many linked to schools it is prudent and essential that the States takes action.
"The focus must be on protecting public health and avoiding further damaging disruption to pupils’ education. Introducing and enforcing compliance with the proportionate measures we have set out in our letter will help in the fight to avoid a bad situation becoming worse in the run up to Christmas.
"Pupils, parents, and school staff must not be left to have to pay the price of a lack of appropriate Covid safety measures in the run-up to the Christmas holidays." - Dr. Patrick Roach, General Secretary.
There are 747 known active cases in the Bailiwick.
The full letter from the NASUWT to the Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen can be read below:
"The NASUWT is extremely concerned by the current surge of COVID-19 cases on Guernsey which appears to be being fuelled largely by cases in schools. This surge is having a significant impact on schools’ ability to operate as well as directly on the
teachers in schools.
"Despite the surge in cases Guernsey has some of the weakest mitigations in relation to preventing the spread of the virus in schools. Face coverings, though recommended, are seldom worn by pupils in communal areas. Carbon dioxide detectors have not been rolled out in the same way as other jurisdictions. There are precious few other precautions.
"The NASUWT is also deeply concerned that non-essential activities are continuing with staff expected to attend. There can be no justification for these to continue. In addition, figures from the Office of National Statistics in the UK show that education staff are more likely to test positive for Covid than staff in other sectors. It is highly likely this is replicated in Guernsey.
"NASUWT members are reporting that the lack of robust protections in their workplaces leaves them at risk of contracting the virus and spreading it to their families. Schools are the only places now where large groups of unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people congregate. No evidence based justification has been provided for not applying precautions to education setting that apply in other similar locations.
"Teachers are also experiencing significant increases in workload due to staff absences and being required to undertake excessive cover. This, combined with fear of contracting the virus, is having a significant impact on the mental health and wellbeing of staff, and there is a clear risk that the COVID-19 pandemic will be followed by a work-related stress epidemic in schools, and one that will be made all the worse if significant numbers of staff are unable to travel off-island at Christmas due to infections contracted in school.
"Many other countries in Europe that have kept in place mitigation measures in schools, whilst rolling out a vaccination programme, have not experienced the surge in cases that we have seen in Guernsey. The NASUWT therefore strongly urges the States of Guernsey to:
- Stop whole-school assemblies and in-person staff/parents meetings
- Reintroduce mandatory face coverings in all school areas
- Postpone/cancel any non-essential activities.
"It is important that Government issues these instructions in the interests of ensuring that all schools remain open safely and in order to protect public health. I look forward to your urgent response.
Dr Patrick Roach