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Dear Education Secretary,

Thank you for enabling all pupils to return to school on 8 March.  Despite this, we have significant concerns about Government guidance recommending that children wear masks in classrooms.

This recommendation does not seem to be based on any scientific evidence, fails to recognise the new realities of us having offered the vaccine to the most vulnerable groups, appears to have been introduced without evaluation of potential harms, and significantly undermines the “national priority” of ensuring British schoolchildren have the education that they deserve.

As all the scientists keep telling us, the youngest are least affected by COVID-19.  Yet last week the Children’s Commissioner reported that at least 850 million classroom days have been lost through school closures.  The education recovery package and catch-up plans are hugely welcome, but your recommendation puts a huge confusing, and potentially harmful, impediment in the way of teachers who simply want to open their school gates and classrooms, teach our children and help pupils catch up after this devastating year.

Last Summer, the Government said masks in classrooms were unnecessary.  The Prime Minister described it as “nonsensical” and said that “you can’t teach with face coverings and you can’t expect people to learn with face coverings.”  Your own department’s August guidance said that they “can have a negative impact on learning and teaching and so their use in the classroom should be avoided.”

By 15 February, the NHS had vaccinated the top four most at risk groups – groups that have accounted for around 88% of COVID-19 deaths and about 55% of hospitalisations.  The UK’s four Chief Medical Officers say that you get “substantial protection within 2-3 weeks of vaccination”, which takes us to 8 March.  So upon what evidence is your department relying in order to recommend that masks in classrooms are today necessary – rather than “nonsensical” – now that the four most vulnerable groups have “substantial ­protection”?

There appears to have been little or no consideration given to any of the negative outcomes of facemasks being worn in classrooms all day.  The WHO places responsibilities on authorities recommending face masks for children requiring the “monitoring and evaluation…measuring the impact on the child’s health, including mental health”.  Can you reassure us that an evaluation by either DfE or DHSC took place before this latest recommendation was made?

Add your name to the letter:
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Pupils all over the country have had a devastating year.  We need teachers to be able to teach, not to be held back by confusing Government recommendations.  Schools and teachers across the country will have to spend all their time enforcing these rules, performing their own cost-benefit analysis, and managing parents’ concerns about mask wearing, when we need them focusing on teaching.

Schools are not vectors of transmission.  You yourself said back in August that “one of the largest studies on the coronavirus in schools in the world” made it “clear there is little evidence that the virus is transmitted at school”.  Professor Chris Whitty this week said that “the risk to children is incredibly low from going to school and, indeed, from catching Covid”.  And the Prime Minister told the nation on 27 January that “the problem is not that schools are unsafe – teachers and headteachers have worked heroically to make sure they are safe, they are Covid-secure.”

If you wish to keep this recommendation in place, please publish the new scientific evidence which makes this measure necessary – especially in light of the vaccination rollout – and show the evidence that this intervention has been properly evaluated for potential harms to both psychological and physical health, so that schools can make an informed decision about whether or not to follow Government guidance, and so that parents and pupils can have confidence in the measure your department is recommending.  Otherwise, your department should reverse it.

Yours sincerely,

Selected Signatories

Academics

Professor Alan Floyd               Professor of Education,  Reading University

Professor Anthony Fryer         Professor of Clinical Biochemistry, Keele University

Professor David Paton             Professor of Industrial Economics, Nottingham University

Professor David Seedhouse    Professor of Deliberative Practice, Aston University

Professor Dennis Hayes           Emeritus Professor of Education, University of Derby

Professor Ellen Townsend       Professor of Psychology, Nottingham University

Professor Ellie Lee                     Professor of Family and Parenting Research, University of Kent

Professor Karol Sikora              Oncologist and Founding Dean, Medicine School, University of Buckingham

Professor Martin Neil                Professor of Statistics and Computer Science, Queen Mary, London

Professor Matthew Ratcliffe     Professor of Philosophy (Mental Health), University of York

Professor Marilyn James           Professor of Health Economics,  Nottingham University

Professor Nicola Pitchford         Professor of Developmental Psychology, Nottingham University

Professor Richard Ennos            Honorary Professional Fellow, Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh

Professor Robert Dingwall         Professor in the School of Social Sciences, Nottingham Trent University

Professor Robert Endres            Professor, Biological Physics., Imperial College, London

Professor Robert Sauer               Chair of Economics, Royal Holloway, University of London

Professor Sarah J Lewis              Professor of Molecular Epidemiology, University of Bristol

Professor Sunetra Gupta            Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology, Oxford University

Professor Victoria Shingler        Professor of Molecular Biology,  Umea University

Dr Lee Jones                                 University Lecturer, Queen Mary, University of London

Dr Jade Norris                              Senior Research Analyst Autism Research, Bristol University

Dr Paul King                                 Lecturer, Biological Sciences, Birkbeck University

Dr Pedro Parreira                        Lecturer in Physics, Glasgow University

Dr Ruth Mieschbuehler             Senior Lecturer in Education Studies, University of Derby

Dr Sebastien Viatte                     Lecturer in Genetics, University of Manchester

Dr Tanya Klymenko                   Lecturer in Biochemistry, Sheffield Hallam University

Dr Tom Jefferson                       Physician  Researcher

Jonathan Berry                          Clinical Lecturer, Keele University

David Ridley                               Senior Lecturer in Physical Education, Sheffield Hallam University

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Tim Henman                            Tennis Professional

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Christine Suppelt                     Doctor

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Dr. Philip George Hollywood    Retired Consultant in Anaesthesia

Dr Renée Hoenderkamp            GP

Dr Ricky Freeman                       GP

Dr Rosamond A K Jones           Consultant Paediatrician (retired)

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Pauline Jones                               Retired GP

Redvers Cording                          Retired Dental Surgeon

Rupert Mason                              MBBS, LRCP, MRCS

Andy Halewood                           Psychologist

Camellia Kojouri                         Psychologist

Dr Elias Diamantis                     Liaison Psychiatrist

Dr Faye Bellanca                         Child Clinical Psychologist

Dr Harrie Bunker-Smith           Clinical Psychologist

Dr Damian Wilde                        Highly Specialist Clinical Psychologist

Dr Tom Carnworth                     Psychiatrist

Dr Zenobia Storah                      Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Rachel Mahoney                   Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Bruce Scott                            Psychoanalyst

Jo Cullen                                      Psychologist and educationalist

Lauren McCoy                            Psychologist

Naomi Murphy                           Clinical Psychologist

Heidi Stone                                 Consultant Positive Psychologist

Leigh Jones                                 Clinical psychologist

Gary Sidley                                 Retired Clinical Psychologist

Elizabeth Bentley                      Psychotherapist

Gillian Rock                                Retired psychotherapist

Josephine Patten-Walsh          Psychotherapist

Kayleigh Morrison                     Psychotherapist

Kate James                                  Psychotherapist

Lorraine Valentine                     Psychotherapist

Richard Rowland                        Psychotherapist

Shereena Hamilton                    NHS Children’s Mental Health Support Worker

Amanda Cairns                           Occupational Health Nurse

Alex Penfold                                Nurse

Chantel Greenwood                   Nurse

Claire Ganley                               Occupational Health Nurse

Diane Macgregor                        RGN, Nurse Practitioner

Danielle Ashe                              Nurse

Elspeth Hill                                 Paediatric nurse

Emma King                                 Paediatric nurse & Health visitor

Emma Greenslade                     School Nurse

Ealeorah Ravleen                      Nurse

James Fair                                  Nurse

Johanna Hubbard                    Retired nurse

Julia Harding                            Nurse

Julia Desousa                            Registered Nurse

Katie Richards                           Nurse

Katherine Hooper                    Retired nurse specialist/paediatric

Lesley Collins                            Retired RN

Leanne Ludlow                         Staff nurse

Lisa Henderson                        Nurse

Louise Smith                            Registered Nurse

Lucy Richards                          Nurse

Luke Knight                              Nurse

Michael Cockayne                   Occupational Health Nurse Practitioner

Nicola McQuaid                      Retired Staff Nurse

Peter Roberts                           Nurse

Roisin Bradley                         Nurse

Sheila Skipworth                    Retired Midwife/Nurse

Steve Dean                               Nurse

Susan Martin                           Nurse

Suzanne France                      Nurse

Timothy Adams                      Staff nurse

Leona Jupe                              Paramedic

Darren Smith                          Paramedic

Annabel Acheson-Gray         Physiotherapist

Tanya Croall                            Physiotherapist

Jo Rogers                                 Occupational Therapist

Teresa Harding                       NHS Health Care Assistant

Natalia James                          NHS Manager

Angela Taylor                          NHS Psychological Therapist

Fiona MacCallum                   NHS Worker

Peter March                             NHS Worker

Gregory Lynn                          NHS Worker

Anna Rayner                           Health Professional

Colin Cambray                        Microbiologist

Colin Knaggs                           Microbiologist.

Cristina Roadevin                  Health Economist

David M Livermore                Microbiologist

Dr Alvin Milner                       Consultant Biostatistician

Gerry Quinn                              Microbiologist

Rachel Nicoll                             Medical Researcher

Richard Allread                         Bio pharmaceutical Development Director

Samantha Fallon                       Analytical Chemist

Education and Children’s Services Professionals

Annabel Nicolls                             Academy Trust Sponsor

David Perks                                    Headteacher

Pauline Wood                                Educational Consultant and former Headteacher

Zoe Staines                                    Deputy Headteacher

Alex Stapaj                                    Assistant Head of Year

Raymond French                         Vice Principal (Rtd)

Adrian Baker                                Teacher of Physics

Alastair Burr                                 School Teacher Secondary

Amanda Britton                           Teacher

Josephine Hussey                       Teacher

Adele Stevens                              Teacher

Adrian Dulston                           Teacher

Alec Lee                                        Teacher

Alison Wormald                        Retired teacher

Amy Harman                             Teacher

Angela Dobric                           Teacher

Ann Parry                                   Teacher

Anna Fauzy-Ackroyd               Retired primary school teacher

Anna Dunham                           Secondary school teacher

Andreana Ashby                        Secondary Teacher

Andrew Wilson                          Teacher (retired)

Catherine Edwards                   Teacher

Christa Swain                            Teacher / director

Claire Braisdell                         Teacher

Claire Emery                             Teacher

Claire Souter                             Teacher

Colette Rowley                         Teacher

Dave Wardle                             Retired Teacher (Head of Faculty)

Daniel Caffarey                        Teacher

Dawn Fletcher                         Teacher (SEN)

Denise Wood                           Retired teacher

Edward Casey                          Retired teacher

Dr Sophie Messager               Teacher

Fatema Paretha                       Teacher

Fiona Beddow                          Teacher

Fraser Stark                              Teacher

Gavin Welch                             Teacher (Sixth Form)

Georgina Jones                        Teacher

Harrison Thompson               Teacher

Hayley Compton                      Teacher

Helen Backhouse                     Teacher

Jacqueline Webb                      Teacher

Jane Hall                                   Teacher

Jenny Pollock                           Teacher

Jenny Knapton                         Supply teacher

Jessica Elms                              Teacher

John Duffy                                Teacher

Karanjot Panesar                     Teacher

Karen Connell                           Teacher

Kathryn Napier                         Teacher

Katie Howarth                           Teacher

Kathryn Keigher                        Retired teacher

Kay Measor   M.A.(Ed)             Retired teacher

Judith Hawarden                       Retired teacher

Louli Money                                Retired teacher

Laurie wood                                Teacher

Louise Newby                             Science Teacher

Madeleine Gillies                       Teacher

Maeve Keenan                            Teacher

Mark Baker                                 Teacher

Mel Brown                                  Teacher

Michael Stokes                           Teacher

Natalie Duncan                         Teacher

Nicole Gibbs                              Teacher

Phillip Dixon                             Teacher

Rebecca D’Cruz                         Teacher

Robert Willson                          Teacher

Samantha Savage                     Teacher

Sarah Hall                                 Teacher

Sian Hutchinson                      Teacher

Stephen Martin                         Teacher

Susan Mathewson                    Teacher

Teresa Ruiz Blanco                   Teacher

Tim Jones                                  Teacher

Tim Arden-White                     Supply Teacher

Valerie Carter                            Teacher

Zoe Nicolaou                             Teacher

Julie Green                               Teacher

Sarita cameron                         Teacher

Toby Marshall                           Teacher

Emma Farquharson                 Teacher

Emma Flourentzou                  Teacher

Emma Poulton                          Teacher

Helen White                              Teacher

Katie Stark                                 Teacher

Michelle Cooper                       Teacher

M K Wilson                               Retired teacher

Nathalie Franklin                     Teacher

Nina Evans                                Teacher

Ortal Wolfson                           Teacher

Padraic Flynn                            Teacher

Paul Robotham                         Retired Teacher

Rebecca Attwood                      Teacher

Robert Horan                            Teacher

Rhoda Margaret Anderton     Retired Teacher

S Wiltshire                                Teacher

Sara Fanner                              Teacher

Sarah caley                               Teacher

Sharon Stanley                         Retired Teacher

Sonia Dignum                           Teacher

Talga Bendie                             Teacher

Trisch Knight                            Retired Teacher

Angela Voon                             Teacher

Brankica Bokan-Tomic          Teacher

Catherine Edwards                 Teacher

Claire Rushworth                    Teacher

Claire Souter                             Teacher

David Ylla                                  Teacher

Elizabeth Robertson                Teacher

Emma Farquharson                 Teacher

Fraser stark                               Teacher

Georgina Jones                         Teacher

Gillian Barham                          Teacher

Hayley Compton                       Teacher

Helen Backhouse                       Teacher

James Trubridge                        Teacher

Jayne Dickerson                        Teacher

Jessica Elms                              Teacher

Joanna Clarke                           Teacher

John                                            Teacher

John Duffy                                 Teacher

Justin Noutch                            Teacher

Kathryn Napier                         Teacher

Katie Fox                                    Teacher

Katie Howarth                           Teacher

Katie Stark                                 Teacher

Marcus Bailey                           Teacher

Mariam Zaidi                            Teacher

Martin Davies                           Teacher

Michelle Cooper                       Teacher

Nathalie Franklin                     Teacher

Phillip Dixon                             Teacher

Rebecca Attwood                      Teacher

Robert Horan                            Teacher

Robert Pokorny                         Teacher

Sara Fanner                               Teacher

Sarah Harrison                         Teacher

Seamus Rush                            Teacher

Simon Holloway                       Teacher

Sonia Dignum                            Teacher

Stephen Martin                         Teacher

Susanna Verde                          Teacher

Talga Bendie                             Teacher

Valerie Carter                            Teacher

John McHugh                           EFL Teacher

Clare Holland                            Teaching assistant

Karen Strain                              Teaching Assistant

Kathy Ganachaud                      Teaching Assistant

Thaira Malik                              Teaching Assistant

Anette Gould                            Teaching assistant

Jill Wilford                                Teaching Assistant

Joanna Burton                          Teaching Assistant

Lesley Chan                              Special educational needs assistant (mainstream secondary)

Michelle Staff                           Teaching assistant

Nicola Hughes                           Teaching assistant

Nora Pearson                            Teaching Assistant

Paula Foran                               Teaching assistant

Sharon Strange                         Retired Teaching Assistant

Vikki Bradbury                          Teaching assistant

Paula Thompson                       Teaching assistant/EFT Practitioner

Carol Skyte                                 Retired Nursery Assistant

Patsy Collinson                          Early Childhood Educator

Karen Woods                             Early years educator

Victoria Pratt                             Early years educator

Amy Boyd                                   Early years practitioner

Laura Kelsey                              Early Years Professional

Karen Woods                             Early years educator

Victoria Pratt                             Early years educator

Amy Boyd                                  Early years practitioner

Saeira Salim                              Montessori Teacher

Jo Carmichael                           Montessori Teacher

Michelle Todd                           Nursery nurse

H Heppenstall                           Nursery Nurse

Jennifer Metcalf                        NNEB Dip. Nursery Nurse

Claire Williams                          Nursery Practitioner

Samantha Stevens                     Special Needs Carer,  Nanny

Natalie Webster                         Nursery Teacher

Yvonne Jack                              Nursery Manager

Catherine Harker                    Ret. Speech therapist

Anthony Dalton                       Education

B Roberts                                  Education

Gayle Harper-Smith               Education

Michael Romaniw                  Education

Helena R Marilican                Education

Rosy Dickinson                        Education

Sarah Ferdinands                   Education Consultant in HX/EX (ex-teacher)

Lance Burkitt                            Education Manager

Jasmina Haigh                          Education professional

Bernadette Donegan                Education Support Administrator

Ruth Cherrington                      Educational Consultant

Jacqueline Donovan                  Educator

Karina Morrison Bell                 Educator

Jonathan Cubitt                          School Bursar

Katie Windle                               School Chaplain

Janie Dimopoulos                      School counsellor

Janine Gumm                             School counsellor

Victoria Holland                         SEND and Safeguarding Administrator

Jennifer Wild                              Student Support Adviser

Helena Meser                             Social Worker

Tara Webb                                  Social worker

Victoria Swift                              Social worker

Carla Jamieson                           Residential childcare officer