[Name of Head Teacher]
[Address of school]
Dear [Head Teacher]
You will no doubt be aware of the announcement made by the Prime Minister regarding Plan B on 18 January 2022, which confirmed that:
- Face coverings are no longer advised for pupils, staff and visitors in classrooms as of 18 January; and
- Face coverings will no longer be advised for pupils, staff and visitors in communal areas from 27 January 2022.
A copy of the latest guidance is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak
I understand that the Prime Minister’s change of policy was made in light of the significant improvement in the Covid-19 pandemic; scientific and medical advice that shows the dominant Omicron strain of Covid-19 results in a significantly less severe illness than the previous Delta variant; and following a government report which highlighted significant harms to the education of children and young people when required to wear face coverings in classrooms.
According to the Department for Education’s (“DfE”) own study conducted in March 2021, 80% of pupils who were surveyed reported that wearing a face covering made it more difficult to communicate, and 55% said that it made learning more difficult. It is also recognised in guidance from the WHO that children may miss learning opportunities if they are required to wear masks during lessons. A further study conducted by the DfE in April 2021 found that 94% of secondary school leaders and teachers thought that wearing face coverings made communication between students and staff more difficult, and 59% said it had become a lot more difficult.
Aside from the significant impacts on learning and communication, mask wearing in children and young people is also linked to various other social and physical harms.
I have recently received your notice that, despite the change in stance made by the Prime Minister, [name of school] is insisting that face coverings are to be worn during lessons. Individual head teachers (and boards of governors) are not in a position to weigh up the complex medical, social and educational factors which a face covering mandate engages. That is the role for the Secretary of State for Education and the Prime Minister, both of whom have made the position on face coverings in classrooms abundantly clear.
Head teachers who go against the government policies on matters involving serious harm to children and young people are making a decision may be unlawful and susceptible to legal challenge. In particular, such a decision is likely to contravene laws on Human Rights and the Equality Act, and may fail to satisfy general public law principles regarding decision-making by public bodies (or those acting in the exercise of public powers).
Whilst I understand there may be pressure from the teaching unions to continue the face coverings mandate in classrooms, the evidence for the effectiveness of face coverings in controlling the spread of Covid-19 does not outweigh the damage to the education of children and young people, nor is it the proper place of the head teachers of schools to seek to make such complex decisions without the benefit of the information held by senior ministers.
I accept that you may wish to issue non-compulsory guidance that children within the school can wear masks if they choose to do so; however, you do not have the power to insist that face coverings are worn in classrooms.
[I put you on notice that [Name of child] will not wear a face covering in the classroom from now on, nor will they wear a face covering in the communal areas at school from 27 January 2022. If you take any detrimental action against [Name of child], such as putting them into isolation, requiring them to sit in a different part of the class to the other pupils, or in any way treating them differently to a student who elects to continue to wear a face mask, I will immediately make a complaint to [insert relevant individual/body within the school for complaints].]
You must not ignore the clear direction which has been made by the Secretary of State for Education and the Prime Minister, and you must immediately withdraw your instruction that face coverings remain mandatory in classrooms. [Failure to do so may result in legal action brought against the school by the parents of the children affected.]
[Name of parent]