Education leader slams masks in schools and jokes pupils could abuse teachers with them on

Schools: Geoff Barton discusses pupils wearing masks

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Geoff Barton, who represents the teaching trading union ASCL, discussed the implementation of masks in schools and their effect on pupils’ learning. The Government announced pupils returning to secondary school would require face masks to be worn during lessons whereas before they had only been required for communal areas. Mr Barton, a former teacher, explained his views on the move ahead of the March 8 reopening and the issues it would raise for teachers and pupils as Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced he was also providing extra funding for schools to run over the summer. 

Speaking on talkRADIO, host Julia Hartley-Brewer asked Mr Barton: “How on earth could a teacher teach a bunch of 11-year-olds all wearing face masks and possibly expect proper interaction.

“Or being able to see whether they really understood what’s going on and for those children to actually join in the classroom?”

Mr Barton replied: “Well, I’m not necessarily representative on this, I look at this from me being a kind of rookie English teacher in the old days.

“I’m thinking what would it be like for a child from 8:30am to five at night to be wearing a face mask, which they would have to do if they’re in indoor spaces. 

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“Secondly, a year ago, as you imply, we were told this is not a good idea because children will be fiddling with them, hygiene will be worse, they’ll drop on the floor and put them in their pockets. 

“And thirdly, if I am that rookie English teacher, I’m not sure that my ability to communicate and listen to and respond to those young people, possibly muttering behind their masks that Barton is a terrible teacher, is going to be conducive to educational standards.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the measures would be reviewed after the first few weeks of schools reopening on March 8. 

The rules of wearing masks in communal areas, such as corridors or buses, remain in place. 

BBC Breakfast: Gavin Williamson quizzed on summer schools

Mr Williamson announced this week that schools would be receiving £700million to put in place schemes to allow pupils to catch-up with their work. 

These include private tutoring and summer schools where primary schools would receive £6000 on average. 

However, it was pointed out to the minister that £6000 would not cover the cost of a new teacher’s salary and that the extra funds did not consider the additional admin and utility costs of keeping schools open longer. 

Mr Williamson reiterated schools would be able to access resources at the National Tutoring Programme and bigger schools can have more funds.  

The programme allows schools to access subsidised tutors and is funded by the Department for Education. 

Some teachers have demanded to be put up the vaccine priority list due to their close contact with children who can act as disease vectors. 

Pupils return to classrooms on March 8 in England and will observe two-meter distancing and sit in covid secure classrooms. 

Schools in Wales and Scotland have already begun to reopen.  

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