Harlow MP Robert Halfon responds to criticism by Labour over mask wearing in schools
Education: Secondary / Thu 6th Jan 2022 at 04:41pm
AFTER recent criticisms by the leader of Harlow Labour over education and covid, Robert Halfon MP has written a response.
Robert Halfon said: “Like Chris Vince, I too have tested positive for COVID and I wish him well for a speedy recovery. But I also wish he would not use every opportunity as a reflex action to attack everything and anything I say and do, rather than putting forward constructive proposals himself.
I’ve expressed reservations about mask-wearing in classrooms because I have been closely listening to the opinions expressed by highly respected professionals and experts.
“I can see that [the wearing of face masks] could be quite inhibitory to the natural expressions of learning in children involving speech and facial expressions. I think it’s difficult for children in schools with face masks”.
(Professor Jonathan Van Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, November 2021)
“At the moment there is very limited evidence as to the efficacy of masks in educational settings”.
(Will Quince MP, Minister for Children, Education Select Committee Hearing)
“The evidence on masks is very unclear…There are lots of concerns about mask-wearing for children…For teenagers, again, I think, we don’t have the evidence this is useful…[There is] very little direct evidence that mask wearing in schools reduces transmission.”
(Professor Russel Viner, SAGE member and former President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, BBC Newsnight Interview)
“I’m not sure that my ability to communicate and listen to and respond to those young people…possibly muttering behind their masks is going to be conducive to educational standards.”
(Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Talk Radio Interview).
“I worry that it is just another case where we’re expecting children to take the hit rather than anyone else in society, and it just seems a bit unfair.”
(Dame Rachel de Souza, Children’s Commissioner for England)
The National Deaf Society have praised my efforts publicly on Twitter, highlighting the significant negative impact mask-wearing can have for children with disabilities or who are hard of hearing.
I raise these concerns not to cause problems for hard-working staff, but to flag the real need to balance the risks posed by COVID to children – minimal in terms of their health, thank goodness – to their ongoing education, wellbeing and mental health.
All I have done is listen to respected opinions – is Chris Vince going to attack all these people? Somehow, I doubt it.
I am doing all that I can and I hope the Opposition Leader would stop grandstanding as “Mr Opposition” and instead, work with me to find solutions to support the ongoing local and national effort.
The situation seems to be pivoting around an "in school or out of school " choice, this simply reflects the inadequacy of the system. Classes of 60 and 90 in school halls as reported on the news aren't the way to solve the issue and aren't a good way to ensure high quality education. Evidence is there that students may themselves not suffer from the virus but they are significant vectors, so masks and air filters would be effective in reducing teacher absence. If we hadn't lost the last 40 years in education we would have developed individual learning programmes using ed tec and ditched the class concept we could be using blended learning strategies to solve the problem and improve learning in normal times. Whilst COVID reigns two hours only per day would facilitate academic learning and sports, creative and other activities low risk, easily staffed activities could be expanded to improve fitness and mental wellbeing to counter the stress and fill the school day. What people have forgotten is that stress levels were rising rapidly amongst children well before COVID, the underlying cause is our now terminal examinations system, however, those who pushed us down the ridiculous rigor road have sought to shift the blame rather than step back and look at the damage high stress cramming for terminal examinations and a highly competitive rather than collaborative education system has done to the quality of life and learning. Individualised learning accelerates learning, it's 4 to 8 and more times faster and better retained than class learning, the argument about masks is simply masking the underlying problems with uk secondary school education.
Do we know the source and the reasons behind the virus yet... Just asking for a friend that was killed by it.
Sir - Good to see that Mr H is keeping his finger well and truly on the pulse while the two F I M members squabble away as usual, about a completely different subject. United in verbosity.
As a parent to 4 children, 2 of whom have SEN, one of which who has been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, has suicidal thoughts and a multitude of other mental health issues I am glad you are speaking out on masks in school. All my child's issues have arisen due to Covid and the lockdowns, she is still waiting for help despite being on the waiting list for MH support for a number of months, 18 plus. I cannot see her life ever recovering from the effects that lockdown has had on her.
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