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Face mask guidance for schools doesn't make sense, says Herne Bay High head teacher

A head teacher says guidance stating staff and children do not need to wear masks in schools does not make sense.

Jon Boyes, of Herne Bay High, says he will not stop anyone from putting on a face covering if they wish to.

Herne Bay High School head teacher Jon Boyes
Herne Bay High School head teacher Jon Boyes

He also admitted maintaining social distancing will be "physically impossible to enforce" as he set out plans for reopening the town's only secondary in September.

Another head also previously said social distancing would be hard to enforce at his school in Canterbury.

Pupils will be split into year-group bubbles when they arrive for the Autumn term, preventing them from mixing with anyone of a different age.

The school has spent about £15,000 on cleaning bills, hand sanitiser, personal protection equipment, rearranging classrooms and installing one-way systems throughout the building.

But Department for Education (DfE) advice says face coverings are “not required” as pupils and staff are mixing in consistent groups and “misuse may inadvertently increase the risk of transmission”.

Face masks are needed on public transport - but not in schools. Stock picture
Face masks are needed on public transport - but not in schools. Stock picture

Mr Boyes said: “I have to wear a mask to go to the opticians, dentist, doctors, shops and on public transport - but when I’m around 1,600 children and 250 adults, I don’t need one on. Work that one out.

“Anyone who wants to wear a mask can; I’m not going to stop anybody. But the principle of it doesn’t make a great deal of sense.”

The DfE also says coverings could have a detrimental impact on communication and, in turn, affect the quality of teaching - but the evidence will be kept under review.

Plans are already in place for year groups to arrive and leave at separate times through their own sets of gates.

And other schools across the country have had to changing layout and design in order to help meet government guidelines.

The Herne Bay school will also be served lunch at different points in the day and be made to use year group-specific toilets.

“They will predominantly be taught in the same classes, so they’ll spend most of their time with the same 25 students,” Mr Boyes continued.

“We’ve redesigned the whole school so they remain in their bubbles.

“Students in their bubbles will aim to stay away from each other, but it’s physically impossible to enforce social distancing with hundreds of students.

"We’re going on the principal that social distancing of one metre will be encouraged, but it won’t be enforceable.”

Herne Bay High School in Bullockstone Road, Herne Bay
Herne Bay High School in Bullockstone Road, Herne Bay

Mr Boyes expects the vast majority of Herne Bay High’s pupils to return in September.

However, he believes a small number with underlying health conditions or vulnerable family members will remain at home.

“It’s been a mammoth task,” he added.

“The sole focus for the last four weeks since the guidance came out was to make sure we could get our students back and teach them in the safest and best possible way.

“We’re using every bit of space in the school. We haven’t got enough classrooms as it is because we’ve had 40 children who couldn’t get in on appeal and about 90 still on the Year 7 waiting list.”

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