SECONDARY schools in Herefordshire have been giving parents updates as students are told again to wear face coverings.

Along with new measures unveiled by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week in response to the new Covid variant Omicron, face masks are being recommended in communal areas of England’s secondary schools and colleges.

The Prime Minister said masks in shops and on public transport would also be compulsory again to try and curb the spread of Covid, with concern over the new variant first found in southern parts of Africa.

David Bennett, executive headteacher at Kingstone High School near Hereford, said the school would continue to have mask wearing until the end of term.

He said the high school, like others in the county, was running short of masks, but it was waiting for a delivery.


"Therefore, we are asking that parents ensure that their children are supplied with masks from home wherever possible," he said, adding reusable masks were available to buy from the school.

At Fairfield High School in the Golden Valley village of Peterchurch, headteacher Sue Gaston said that there would be "no real change" at the school as it had enforced mask wearing since September when rules were relaxed by the Department for Education.

But in a letter to parents, she asked parents to give children their own face mask, as the school did not have sufficient stocks of disposable paper ones.

"Everyone should also have their own hand sanitiser and use it regularly," she said.

"We continue to clean as much as possible and encourage hand washing etc. Please continue to complete lateral flow tests twice weekly at home."

Weobley High School, near Leominster, said it was also suffering from a shortage of masks.

But in a letter to parents, headteacher Dean Williams said the school was already enforcing the wearing of face masks.

He said: "We have had this measure in place for some time due to the prevalence of cases in the county, however I would ask that you please reiterate this at home and ensure that your child brings a suitable face mask to school each day.

"Some pupils are still relying on the school to provide face masks on almost a daily basis and therefore our stock is depleted; your support in ensuring that they have their face masks before leaving the house in the morning would be much appreciated."


It came after the Education Secretary said closing schools was the last possible option in the fight against the new Omicron variant of coronavirus – but teaching unions called for tougher measures.

Nadhim Zahawi said he does not support the return of “bubbles” in schools – where whole classes or year groups could be sent home after a positive Covid-19 test – as it reduces attendance “significantly”.

The Education Secretary told ITV’s This Morning programme: “The best place for children to be is in a classroom, learning.”

Asked if closing schools was the “last possible option”, he said: “Absolutely.”

Mr Zahawi added: “Keep schools open: do all the things necessary, like face masks in communal areas… to protect the education in the classroom.

“Face masks are not a panacea… these are all interventions that just help you slow the virus… from accelerating too quickly.”

Senior Tory MP Robert Halfon, chairman of the Education Committee, called for confirmation that schools would not be closed early for Christmas.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “There are no plans that I am aware of that would require us to close schools early, I think that would be very detrimental to the education of children.”

The National Education Union (NEU) suggested face coverings could also be worn in secondary school classrooms, and schools in England could consider “bubbles” to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “The best place for children is at school and the last thing we want is to see more disruption to education.”

But she added: “Covid does not recognise the difference between a corridor and a classroom, and a failure to require face coverings in both areas in secondary schools is a mis-step in the latest guidance.

“We also believe that arrangements for close contacts should mirror that of Scotland. Schools may wish to consider bubbles to help stop the spread, and in relation to local case rates and any outbreaks within the school.

“Masks in communal areas are there to stop the spread between classes, and bubbles with different playtimes and lunch sittings would help with the same aim. This will be a challenge for schools with limited space but is in the interests of keeping education going.”