Something that might boost children, parent and teacher confident for returning to school in September is hearing that the Welsh Government has Confirmed Children will be required to Wear Face Coverings at School and College now.
Back on the 7th July 2020 the Technical Advisory Group gave advice to the Welsh Government about all children returning to school this September.
This advice made specific reference to Secondary School aged children saying “Secondary age children are likely to need to reduce overall daily contacts by 40-60% to maintain Covid-19 security. This could be achieved by 2m social distancing and/ or maintaining class ‘Covid Secure groups’ with avoidance of mixing (additional data awaited). Average approx. 20 daily contacts age 11-20, 50% reduction indicates max group size of around 10.”
And whilst most schools will be following all the advice, the Welsh Government has now published additional advice from the Technical Advisory Group following its review of the use of face coverings in schools, which will also affect school and college age children.
The Technical Advisory Group latest advice highlights that there is a “relative absence of real world data in school settings in UK or comparable cultures where wearing of masks or face coverings is not the cultural expectation”
It goes on to say that “The rates of infection and transmission increase gradually after age 11, during the secondary school age group. The current evidence from schools return in England and Scotland is that the majority of school based cases are imported from adult spread, but there is a small potential for spread within the school setting.”
This latest advice given to the Welsh Government confirms that the WHO and UNICEF advice to decision makers for use of masks in children in countries or areas where there is known or suspected community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and in settings where physical distancing cannot be achieved is:
With all this latest evidence and research, including recent publications from the UK Chief Medical Officers and Deputy Chief Medical Officers and the World Health Organisation the current advice now from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales is that face coverings are recommended for all members of the public over 11 years in indoor settings in which social distancing cannot be maintained, including schools and school transport.
As a result of this advice the Welsh Government has now changed their minds on the wearing of face coverings within schools and colleges, saying “the rates of infection and transmission increase after from the age of 11 onwards and could have a role in risk mitigation.”
The Welsh Government is now going to amend their operational guidance for schools and further education venues, to require settings and local authorities to undertake risk assessments and determine if face coverings should be recommended for their staff and young people in communal areas. This will also include school and college transport.
It is important that the interest of the young people is given priority and therefore local authorities might need to provided young people with face coverings if they don’t have access to them.
So as parents we can do a few things between now and schools going back which includes the obvious that you can get your child a good fitting face covering, if they are not being provided by the school or college.
However, there are a few other things you can do such as talk to your child and help them understand there is a safe way to put on, take off, store and dispose of a face covering
Also help your child understand that some people due to medical reasons will not be wearing face coverings and that’s ok so there is no need to make them feel any different.
As well as reminding your child that some one they come across may have problems understanding them as they normally rely on reading a person’s lips so with them covered that they should be mindful of how they could communicate in a different way to help overcome this issue.
And finally, if your child is not keen on wearing a mask, or doesn’t see the importance of it, then you can always take the time to explain how they would be:
Helping prevent passing it onto someone who could become extremely ill with the virus and that an amazingly kind thing to do.
And whilst there is not a high number of children being fatally affecting by this virus, they can still get poorly which is really not fun and that there is some pretty worrying research starting to emerge about long term effects to children and adults that have had mild cases, so there is no harm in just preventing that in the first place, as we are still learning new things everyday.
Although this new advice on wearing face coving is to help prevent spread of coronavirus, the most important controls within in schools and colleges should still continue to be:
Social distancing of 2m of over 11’s is still required in the class rooms and therefore if this is done, it’s thought that face to face teaching without coverings can continue.
As the situation with Coronavirus is always changing and case numbers can go up or down or localised clusters appear suddenly then additional local control measure may be needed.
Therefore, all this guidance from the Welsh Government to schools and colleges will remain under review as the pandemic continues and may change if community prevalence changes across Wales in the future.