Teachers’ concerns about high school students without masks

Many teachers are reluctant to allow secondary schools to open completely, without masks and distance rules for students. This is evident from a survey by the Leraren in Actie trade union. If it were up to the cabinet, secondary school students will go back to school in the North region from Monday, without a mask and in a full classroom. Concerns about this are growing.

The teachers’ union says it is inundated with concerned reactions. “The survey that we conducted among our 2,200 members is still ongoing, but at the moment the image is that 80 percent of teachers think it is unsafe to fully reopen the schools”, says Peter Althuizen, chairman of Teachers in Action. “Our teachers are concerned about their own health, that of the children and that of people at home.”

The European RIVM and epidemiologist Patricia Bruijning also express their concerns. Tomorrow there will be a briefing from the RIVM about the corona virus and on Wednesday the House of Representatives will debate about the approach to the corona virus. Opening schools without action is against the advice of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. The ECDC, the European RIVM, argues in favor of masks and distance, also among schoolchildren.

In Israel we saw that there was a major outbreak in an open school, “said Mike Catchpole, ECDC principal investigator News hour. “The classrooms were full and there was a heat wave, so students didn’t have to put on their face masks. That suggests that without social distancing, an outbreak in a school is more likely,” said Catchpole. ECDC recommends a distance of between one and two meters and the use of masks.

Do the rules need to be revised?

In June, the cabinet announced that, unlike at many foreign schools, students in the Netherlands do not have to wear a mouth mask and do not have to keep their distance from each other. They just need to keep a distance of five feet from the teacher. “Only if the virus spreads further than expected, that decision can still be revised,” the cabinet wrote at the time.

According to Patricia Bruijning, pediatrician and epidemiologist at UMC Utrecht, the time has now come. “I think the current measures may be insufficient in the fall. We are now in a different phase of the epidemic. We are seeing contagions rising again and entering a period of the year when we are more concerned about spreading. The fact that teenagers can also become infected, that means something social distancing must be maintained. “

The unions for education staff want to hear from the cabinet this week whether the previously introduced rules are still compliant, “so that education can confidently start the new school year next week,” said a spokesman for the General Education Union.

Classes with thirty teenagers

Last week Prime Minister Rutte called during a press conference specifically young people to adhere to the general measures. “After that press conference, we think: how can you point out those rules to young people from 18 onwards, while secondary schools have classes with thirty 17 and 18 year olds?” Asks Althuizen of the LiA trade union.

According to Bruijning, the current situation also appears to be a kind of license for young people. “With measures you can also bring back awareness in this age group. Telling this group that they do not have to keep their distance is a bit of a strange message.”

The trade unions General Education Union and Teachers in Action want the cabinet to intervene. Althuizen is concerned that there is still a lack of clarity about the policy a week before opening. “It is too little, too late. They could have foreseen this much earlier.”

Although ECDC does not want to comment on the specific situation in the Netherlands, the organization is critical of various measures: “I think that if the population receives different messages, for example about when different measures apply in different situations, it is difficult to understand what the is correct, ”said lead researcher Catchpole. “Coordination is important.”


Last week asked secondary schools call the Outbreak Management Team for advice on ventilation in schools. There are also concerns about this. That advice is expected this week. Tomorrow the RIVM will give a briefing about the state of affairs, on Wednesday the House of Representatives will debate about the approach to the corona virus.

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