Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, has been accused of “double standards” after the Government ordered people to wear mask in shops – but not in schools.
GMB – the union for school staff – has written to Williamson, questioning the decision to “actively discourage” wearing masks in English schools – while expecting staff to wear masks on public transport and shops on the way to and from work.
It is demanding “consistency and clarity” for school staff – and calling on Williamson to guarantee that PPE, including face masks, are available in schools and can be worn by staff.
The letter, seen by The London Economic, adds: “GMB is fully supportive of the UK Government’s objective of eradicating coronavirus from our communities which we know have impacted disproportionately on the most vulnerable in our society.
“It is therefore of great concern that the government’s announcement has produced a clear double standard between those entering shops and retail establishments in England from 24th July and our members who have been working in our schools throughout the lockdown period supporting the children of key workers and vulnerable children.
“The prime minister has stated that members of the public should wear masks if they are ‘going to be in a confined space and (you) want to protect other people and to receive protection in turn’.
“Our members working in schools, particularly with a full complement of pupils in September, are asking why they are expected to wear masks on public transport to get to work, in shops if they pop out at lunch time, but are actively discouraged from wearing them in schools.”
‘Time for a rethink’
Karen Leonard, GMB National Officer, said: “It’s plain common sense that workers in schools should be allowed to wear face masks and provided with them if they are required.
“Changing the rules for buses and shops to enforce the wearing of masks while actively discouraging those working in schools from even wearing them is causing untold confusion.
“We have stated throughout the pandemic that our members deserve safe workplaces and the way to do that is to ensure that school staff are protected in line with scientific advice and common sense.
“It’s time for the Gavin Williamson and his colleagues to rethink their position, provide clarity and consistency for our valuable school staff, and ensure PPE – including face masks – is available and can be worn by staff in schools where required.”