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Abbey School in Faversham punishes pupils for wearing face masks in class


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Pupils at a Kent secondary school have been removed from lessons and given detentions for wearing face masks in class.

Youngsters at the Abbey School in Faversham say they have been covering up to protect vulnerable relatives as Covid cases soar across the town.

Pupils at the Abbey School, Faversham, have been punished for wearing face masks in class. Picture: Google Street View
Pupils at the Abbey School, Faversham, have been punished for wearing face masks in class. Picture: Google Street View

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But teachers say the masks are a "barrier to learning", and have been punishing pupils who refuse to remove them during lessons.

The policy has left some children anxious about going to school as they fear they will catch the virus and pass it onto loved ones at a higher risk of falling seriously ill.

Elouise Gould, 33, says her daughter, Paige, has been put in 'reflection' - a room for pupils removed from lessons to work in isolation - three times this week for wearing a face mask in the classroom.

She has branded the Abbey School “disgusting” for punishing the 13-year-old for wanting to protect herself and others.

Paige Bottle's mum Elouise Gould has blasted the Abbey School for punishing pupils for wearing face masks in class. Picture: Elouise Gould
Paige Bottle's mum Elouise Gould has blasted the Abbey School for punishing pupils for wearing face masks in class. Picture: Elouise Gould

“My daughter has had Covid three times,” Ms Gould said.

“She has a little brother on her dad's side and gave it to him.

“To protect ourselves and others she has worn her mask in class but she has been taken to reflection each time and has been put in detention.

“But then in reflection they have to wear a mask, which is ridiculous.”

Paige is also anxious she will pass Covid onto her mum, who has underlying health conditions.

“They are taking her out of class and [stopping her] interacting with teachers and with friends” Ms Gould added.

“In reflection, they are there with a book and a bit of paper, which she could do at home - where she would be safer.”

The Abbey School is located in a small area referred to by public health chiefs as Faversham West.

In the most recent week 86 new Covid cases were recorded, giving it an infection rate of 994 cases per 100,000 - more than double the national average.

At the same time, a case of the new Omicron variant has been discovered at a school in Northfleet.

Another Abbey School parent, Karly May, 32, says her son has chosen to wear a face mask to protect a terminally ill grandparent and his nine-year-old sister, who has chronic lung disease and a weak immune system.

Albie May, 15, has been put in isolation and given after-school detentions for covering up in class, which his mum says is causing him “unnecessary stress”.

“I am in limbo at the minute because I want to keep my kids in school but they’re not allowed to wear masks [in the classroom],” Ms May said.

“They are not allowing it at the moment because it is not government guidance.”

A spokeswoman for The Abbey School says masks are only recommended for secondary school pupils on public transport and when "moving around the school and in communal areas", but not in the classroom.

Albie May, who goes to the Abbey School in Faversham, has been punished for wearing a face mask in class. Picture: Karly May
Albie May, who goes to the Abbey School in Faversham, has been punished for wearing a face mask in class. Picture: Karly May

She added: “The government is not recommending children wear face masks in classrooms, and previous national guidance has been clear this is because face masks can act as a barrier to effective communication, teaching and learning.”

The spokesman says pupils are asked to wear masks in reflection because it is “a communal area and mixing with students from other years groups”.

The Abbey School has come in for much criticism in recent months.

In October it was forced to deny it had become like a "military school" after enforcing controversial new rules following a visit by "Britain's strictest head".

Barry Smith, whose disciplinary approach has sparked controversy, was deployed to the school in September.

It confirmed a number of rules had been introduced to enhance its “culture of politeness, courtesy and respect”.

These include talking in full sentences, projecting voices, sitting up straight and listening, remembering basic manners, greeting each other and asking if people are having a good day.

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