Wednesday, 19 January 2022
SECONDARY schools in the Henley area are following the Government’s advice that masks should be worn in the classroom.
The temporary re-introduction of face coverings was brought in for the start of the new term last week to help reduce the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
Staff and pupils are also expected to take lateral flow tests.
These are recommendations designed to enable schools to remain open for face-to-face learning and are not mandatory.
All 900 students at Gillotts returned to school on Monday, having undergone staggered starts last week according to their year groups in order to have tests and then be sent home to learn remotely.
Headteacher Catharine Darnton said: “To reduce the risk of Omicron, we are asking students to wear their masks in the classroom and around communal areas.
“We also decided to begin the term with a staggered start day for each year group. By staggering the days, we were able to make sure tests were done thoroughly.
“We had very good support from the pupils and the parents. Communication between teachers and students is so much easier without the masks but these are government guidelines to prevent the spread of Omicron and to keep the students and their families safe, which is our main concern.
“It’s very sensible to keep wearing masks. We don’t want the virus spreading around the school.”
The 350 pupils at Chiltern Edge Maiden Erlegh returned on Tuesday last week.
Headteacher Andy Hartley said: “The students wear their masks in communal areas and around the school and in the classrooms.
“We have organised a one way system, too. It works very well and keeps the flow of air in the right direction and keeps the kids outside as much as possible. We have also reduced assemblies to just one year group at a time.”
He said that about 95 per cent of our students were tested last week as some parents didn’t give their consent. “We only had a couple of cases,” said Mr Hartley. “I think the number was so low because the parents did lateral flow tests the night before school. Six to seven students didn’t come in last week as they tested positive.”
At Queen Anne’s School in Caversham all 450 girls returned on Thursday last week. About half of them are boarders.
Elaine Purves, the head, said: “Student and staff safety is our priority and mask-wearing is a government recommendation which we are following.
“We ask the girls to wear masks in class and especially when moving around the common room areas and to just be careful of each other and be mindful of those around us.”
All students were required to complete a lateral flow test last week and report this to the NHS and the school and to continue testing twice a week throughout the term.
Mrs Purves added: “We really want to make sure the girls can stay in school and so do the girls so they are being very sensible.
“We haven’t returned to social bubbles yet, so during break time, when they are outside, they are able to socialise. Our approach will be to do as much sport as possible in terms of fixtures, PE and clubs, consistent with keeping safe.
“The positive benefits for pupils in terms of physical and mental wellbeing need to be kept at the forefront, where possible. Measures are in place such as masks in changing rooms, visiting teams using different toilet blocks and a lot of activity outside.”
More than 480 pupils have returned to Shiplake College.
Headteacher Tyrone Howe said: “Our approach has been to be prudent and pragmatic about how we tackle the virus and to have as much of a positive school experience as we can.
“Face coverings have returned to reduce the spread of Omicron and the students wear them all the time really, so they are used to it. They are wearing their masks in the classrooms and communal areas.
“We don’t ask them to wear masks in exams because we ensure that the seating arrangement is very well thought out. There is more and enough space between students anyway so that they can concentrate, and we keep the halls very well ventilated too.
“We had only two positive covid tests when we tested last week.”
13 January 2022
A BOAT enthusiast has criticised a decision to ... [more]
POLL: Have your say