UNISON North West has called for a change in Government guidance to allow school support staff to wear face coverings if they wish to as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the region.
The North West region has both the highest number of total cases (48,129) and the highest number of total deaths (7,009) of any region in the country.
Seventeen out of twenty-one of the local authority areas placed back into local restrictions over recent weeks are in the North West region. Eighty per cent of local areas on the Government watch-list of areas of concern are within the North West.
The union has now written to secretary of state for education Gavin Williamson urging him to allow all school staff to be allowed to wear face coverings if they choose.
UNISON also supports calls to let pupils wear face coverings too, given emerging evidence that transmission rates among secondary school children could be equal to those for adults.
Employers must also provide safety kit, such as masks where necessary, to staff found to be at higher risk of Covid-19 following an individual assessment, says UNISON.
It comes as government guidance came into effect this weekend which made face covering compulsory for all inside public spaces from Saturday.
Current Department for Education guidance to schools needs an immediate review to ensure measures to protect staff, pupils and the wider community are improved, says the union.
UNISON North West schools organiser Keith Bradley said: “The whole of Greater Manchester and large swathes of Lancashire remain under local lockdown- the virus remains a real and present danger within our region.
“With cases rising and our national track and trace system delivering inadequate outcomes, parents and staff are understandably worried. In just a few weeks, school staff will put themselves at increased risk to support our children; they deserve the option to further protect themselves using a face covering if they want to.
“We all want schools to reopen in September but this has to be done with due regard to the safety of pupils, staff and the local community. This is more important in our region than anywhere else in the country.
“Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School was the first school in the country to make face coverings mandatory for both staff and students despite Government advice to the contrary. It’s no surprise, given the worrying statistics, that the first school to take this position comes from within our region. It’s time for the Government to prioritise safety and make face coverings optional for all staff and pupils.”