Published: 15:37, 20 January 2022
| Updated: 09:11, 21 January 2022
A Kent secondary school has defied the lifting of some Covid restrictions by asking pupils to continue wearing masks.
Boris Johnson announced in the House of Commons yesterday that Plan B measures are being scrapped, meaning face coverings are no longer mandatory in lessons.
The Prime Minister said the government "will no longer require face masks in classrooms" from today, while the Department for Education (DfE) "will shortly remove national guidance on their use in communal areas".
He said the decision to wind down restrictions has been made as more than 90% of over-60s across the UK have now had booster vaccines, and scientists believe the Omicron wave had peaked.
But some feel the removal of masks in schools has come too soon.
At least one Kent school has taken matters into its own hands by defying the government guidelines.
Jonathan Hopkins, head teacher at Barton Court Grammar School in Canterbury, says pupils must continue wearing face coverings until "at least" next Friday when the guidelines will be reviewed.
He said the decision was taken as "every year group" at the school currently has cases of Covid-19.
Writing to parents yesterday, he said: “At Barton Court we initiated wearing face masks in communal areas and classrooms before Christmas prior to any government announcement because this is what we felt we needed to do to minimise risk for staff and students alike.
"Our experience this term has been that a very small number of staff have had Covid-19 and my priority is to be in the best position to be able to staff the school, ensuring students have as many of their regular teachers as possible.
"Wearing face masks is not the only reason why our staffing level has been so high but it is a significant reason. At the time of writing, every year group has cases of Covid-19, with Year 12 having the most cases.
"Therefore, at Barton Court students will continue to wear face masks in lessons and communal areas until at least Friday, January 28, unless they are exempt. The head teacher will then communicate with the school community again."
The move was welcomed by Alison Dilnutt, from Whitstable, whose son is a pupil at Barton Court.
Sharing the news on Twitter, she wrote: "Seems the schools are doing the right thing to protect staff, students and the community."
Praising Barton Court's approach, she told KentOnline: "They've been great at regularly updating their Covid rules and I think have managed to get the balance right.
"I trust them to make a wise decision whether to carry on or not.
"They've been cautious and got it right so far. So glad my son is at that school!"
Others praised the school on Twitter, with one user writing "Well done this school. Seems some have common sense."
Other parents expressed frustration that their children's schools have not done the same, with one writing: "Sadly ours was emailing within the hour that masks are no longer obligatory!"
But many others have welcomed the move to scrap masks in classrooms, including Mike Walters, executive head teacher at St Anselm's Catholic School in Canterbury, and chair of the Kent Association of Headteachers.
He said: "Given that Covid case rates are relatively flat, and quite low in many schools, it's no surprise they came to this decision and we're quite happy with it.
"We don't really want children wearing masks in the classrooms or communal areas for any longer than necessary and as long as the scientific evidence suggests the risk is low, we are in favour of children being in a position where they can take their masks off."