Face masks MUST be brought back in schools to halt rising infections, Independent SAGE member says

FACE masks must be brought back in schools to stop rising Covid infections, a member of SAGE has said.

Professor Christina Pagel said masks should be reintroduced into secondary schools immediately.

The independent Sage member – a mathematician at University College London – told a Royal Society for Medicine briefing: "I think we need to put mitigations back in schools, particularly masks in secondary schools, now and roll out the vaccine a bit more rapidly."

She also said other measures such as keeping doors and windows open should also be brought back in schools.

School kids are currently required to test twice a week for Covid using a lateral flow device.

Some schools in parts of Cumbria, Northamptonshire and the South West are already using masks in schools – but this is not required by Government policy.

Professor Pagel said increasing infection rates among kids, Long Covid risks as well as the slow vaccine rollout for young people meant increased measures were needed.

However, Dr Camilla Kingdon – president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health – told the same briefing that the remaining Covid measures in schools should be dropped.

She said: "The reason that we are saying let's have a conversation about routine lateral flow tests for children is because we want to get into a more normal way of returning to school.

"In a normal winter, if your child is ill, has a fever or a cough, they should not come into school, but if your child is healthy they should come in.

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"We are advocating for a conversation on how can we get back to that place where children can rely on being allowed to go to school."

The college has called for the twice-weekly testing of pupils to end.

It comes as GCSE and A-level results will be marked leniently next year – and pupils will be tipped off about exam topics.

Exams will return in 2022 after being scrapped because of Covid, ministers have announced.

Ministers said they will push ahead with exams, but make them easier to recognise the massive disruption the pandemic had on kids' education.

Students sitting exams in England will be given advance notice of what papers will be about.

They will also be graded more leniently than before the pandemic.

Pupils will be given a choice of topics in some subjects, extra information on what they will be tested on and formulae sheets in maths to help them.

If Covid suddenly spikes and exams cannot go ahead then teachers will hand out grades again.

Ministers said they will also start tackling grade inflation by placing marking boundaries halfway between where they were pre-pandemic, and this summer’s record-breaking haul.

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