Pupils in West Berkshire urged to wear masks in lessons as Covid numbers rise
Some pupils in secondary schools in the area have returned to mask-wearing in lessons.
With Covid cases on the rise in the district – and the Newbury Showground site highlighted as one of the centres affected by false negative PCR test issues – schools have been asked to increase precautions for the next week.
Pupils break up for half-term at the end of this week and the guidance issued to schools by West Berkshire education department advised that the precautions should be in place until then.
It is expected they will be reviewed over the half-term break.
In the seven days up to October 13, there were 707 Covid-19 cases recorded in West Berkshire, with a rolling rate per 100,000 population sitting at 446.2.
St Bartholomew’s School, in Newbury, has been asking pupils to wear masks in communal areas of the school since pupils returned in September, in a bid to keep cases low, but other schools had scrapped them completely.
Yesterday, the school confirmed to parents that the council has urged all schools to now ask pupils to wear masks in communal indoor areas, until October half-term. At St Barts, that will include in lessons.
Park House has also confirmed to parents that pupils will be required to wear a mask indoors – with a return to pre-summer measures in the Newbury school.
Similar letters have been sent to parents at The Downs School, in Compton, The Willink School in Burghfield Common and John’O’Gaunt school in Hungerford.
Last week the NWN saw a letter sent to teachers at Trinity School, which informed them that Year 7s would be encouraged to wear masks again from this week due to the continued number of Covid cases reported in that cohort.
It added that assemblies would become virtual again and that pupils would be asked to increase their self-testing to three times each week.
Service director for communities and wellbeing at West Berkshire Council Matt Pearce said: "We recently suggested to schools that they may wish to put face coverings in place in communal areas.
"These aren’t in classes and this is perfectly within the Government's current framework."
He added: "We are in constant conversation with our schools to support them.
"Normally it's a conversation with schools about what additional measures they think will be needed and we work with them."
He reported that Covid-19 patients within hospitals remains stable, with 27 confirmed Covid patients in Royal Berkshire Hospital on October 12.
Additionally, there were nine new Covid-19 admissions to the RBH on October 10.
NHS Berkshire West chief information officer Katie Summers said that some schools have sent out communications to parents outlining that they should be wearing masks for their drop-off and pick-up routines as well as informing them that teachers have been encouraged to wear masks too.
She revealed that within 12- to 15-year-olds in the low risk groups, there has been an uptake of 25 per cent in vaccinations, which equates to 7,364 children.
In high risk groups there is an uptake of 47 per cent, which equates to 227 children in the district.