Ludlow headteacher hoping 'subdued' pupils can soon remove face coverings in class

A south Shropshire headteacher has praised the 600 pupils at her school for the way they have adapted to Covid rules - but hopes they will soon be allowed to remove face coverings in the classroom.

Pupils, such as Alex Elder, 14, have also been allowed to keep their coats on in class due to the windows being open
Pupils, such as Alex Elder, 14, have also been allowed to keep their coats on in class due to the windows being open

Paula Hearle runs the Ludlow Church of England School for 11-16 year olds, and says she has noticed pupils are more "subdued" in the classrooms while wearing face coverings.

But she believes that generation Covid and their parents have been adaptable over the last two years. And they could become more resilient because of what they have had to cope with - which includes keeping their coats on in chilly ventilated classrooms.

"The Covid generation will find out what a resilient and sensible group of people they have become," said Mrs Hearle. "I have not had one single difficult conversation with a child over the use of face coverings.

"It is a clear rule is that you tuck your shirt in and - unless you are exempt - you wear your face coverings and we make sure that is understood."

But Mrs Hearle admits that children are more subdued and find it more difficult to speak up when wearing face coverings.

The school has introduced three-minute breaks between double lessons when the students can go outside for a breath of fresh air and take their face coverings off.

"We were concerned about children wearing face coverings all day, and the break has been well received," she added. "We know it is uncomfortable and we are working with the children."

But with the rules set to be reviewed at the end of the month, Mrs Hearle is hoping that it would be relaxed once more. Mrs Hearle understands that the rule will be reviewed on January 26.

SOUTH COPYRIGHT SHROPSHIRE STAR STEVE LEATH 13/01/2022..Pic at Ludlow C E School for a saturday feature. Pupils in masks and in some cases coats as leaving the windows in the classroom leaves it cold. Headteacher: Paula Hearle with pupils: Flynn Neath 11 and Anya Twiddy 11..

"I really hope that is reviewed - and if the figures are low that we can take decisions locally," she said. "It is a key point for me."

The rule to wear face coverings came in at short notice just before the start of term, but the school has an email alert system to let parents know what they needed to do.

Mrs Hearle and her team also created 30 testing stations on the first day of term, where 520 children were tested starting at 8.15am and all were done by 10.55am. Only two tests came back positive, giving the school a great start to the new year.

She says she hasn't had a problem with staff absences with a bank of supply teachers she can call on at short notice.

"We were into our full timetable by the second lesson of the first day," she said.

The school in The Burway, Bromfield Road, received a "good" rating from Ofsted in February 2020 and was praised as a "calm, orderly and harmonious place."

Part of Ludlow School was turned into a mass testing site at the start of term

Mrs Hearle said: "Our parents are absolutely superb in making sure their children take their twice weekly tests, including on the first day of term. I email the parents on a Sunday asking them not to forget to test tonight or in the morning.

"People are very - or appear to be very - patient with me," she joked.

"Aside from the 20 or so children who are exempt, for example because they have asthma, everyone wears a face covering."

Mrs Hearle said they have not had a problem getting hold of testing kits - and the new type, requiring a nostril swab, are easier to use. And the school paid £800 to make sure it had enough personal protective equipment.

The head is determined not to see any return to virtual learning en mass - and says the school never had to send a whole year group home during the autumn Covid wave.

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