I am writing to provide you with my experiences relating to school attendance and transmission of COVID to and from children. I have concerns generally that there is a lack of recognition about transmission amongst children and adults. This is an issue for the whole of society. England continues to provide suboptimal mitigation at school which does not take into account aerosol transmission. This is a potential leaking hole in our Covid strategy.
From my own point of view, this lack of mitigation has caused much anxiety for my family. I am a mother of two teenagers, year 13 and year 10. My year 10 daughter suffers from type 1 diabetes and I have an episodic neurological condition. Both conditions can result in hospitalisation but thankfully we have not had to attend this year. We are both at an increased risk of Covid and would be categorised as clinically vulnerable.
On the first day my daughter went back to school, I was overjoyed that normality was returning for her. When I saw the overcrowded buses though I was concerned. All that we knew about preventing viral spread was being forgotten in the aim of education as usual. There was a focus on hand sanitiser but no masks in class (face) and with no separate desks and over-crowded classes (no space). At the same time, there was a billboard near the bus stop featuring teens which read “don’t kill granny!”.
As Covid infections sprang up at school, I began to ask if masks could be mandated with exemptions in class as a form of mitigation. The World Health Organisation had recommended them in class and I had obtained the views of many experts in public health which agreed with their use. I was always clear that exemptions should be allowed as in any indoor space. Recently I also obtained and sent to the Headteacher SAGE papers on mitigation for the new variant.
After isolations and infections in later October, masks were mandated for sixth form. My son reports that everyone is fine with them. They are not required for other secondary year groups. My daughter was allowed to wear one herself but was the only one in a canteen of over 100 pupils. It would be minimally effective and was a source of peer pressure for her.
The Department of Education are yet to update their guidelines to recommend masks in class. Many headteachers have take the step themselves but some will not.
My son has a place at the university of his choice. He will of course want to return to school as soon as they open. My daughter as well as she has started GCSE. I hope that you can take this evidence into account and consider how the Department for Education could be encouraged to update their guidance and provide investment in safer school settings. Thank you.