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Face coverings in schools

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Dear Public Health England,
Yesterday guidance was issued by the DfE to schools in England to extend the 'guidance' for children to wear masks in schools and classrooms, de facto making it mandatory for children to do so. Ministers and representatives of the DfE have repeatedly stated that this was on the advice of PHE, whilst repeatedly failing to reveal the specifics of this advice. I would like to see the following information used when reaching the conclusion that this was necessary, proportionate and likely to be effective in addressing Covid 19:

- specific data provided by PHE when making their recommendation to DfE.
- specific details and report provided by PHE to the DfE in making the recommendation to you.
- the feedback gathered from stakeholders in reviewing the success and costs of this measure between March and Easter.
- Data for the same.
- Anecdotal feedback for the same.
- Data and study evidence that face masks in classrooms are an effective measure in controlling Covid 19.
- Any other factor considered in your 'review' of this measure between March and Easter.
- The report providing details of the 'review' of face masks in schools between March and Easter, including full details of risks and benefits considered and the data behind these.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully,

PT

FOI, Public Health England

Dear PT,

Thank you for your email to Public Health England (PHE) on 07 April regarding face coverings in schools.

In order to process your request, please provide us with your real name. As soon as this is provided we will process your request. Under Section 16 of the FOI Act, public authorities have a duty to provide advice and assistance. Accordingly, please visit the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO)'s website on the following link which provides guidance on its definition of what constitutes to a real name: https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...

FOI Team
Public Accountability Unit
Public Health England
[Public Health England request email]
Tel: 020 8327 6920
www.gov.uk/phe Follow us on Twitter @PHE uk

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Dear FOI,
Thank you for your response. Although I am not required to provide it, my name is Margaret Johnson.

Yours sincerely,

PT

PT left an annotation ()

This is the response received from PHE, sent directly to me rather than publicly via this website.

Dear Sir or Madam

Thank you for your recent email to Public Health England (PHE) regarding the wearing of face coverings by children in schools.

To ensure education and care policy is guided by the most up-to-date scientific evidence as the pandemic continues to evolve, the Department of Education (DfE) regularly reviews data, analysis and advice from a number of different sources including PHE, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), the Office for National Statistics, and the Joint Biosecurity Centre.

PHE provided the following data and evidence to support the DfE review of their policy on the use of face coverings in secondary school classrooms.

The R value and growth rate
The latest reproduction number (R) and growth rate of Coronavirus (COVID-19) (data as of 26 March) https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-r-value-....

Population prevalence data, by age group
Data from the Office of National Statistics Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey, UK: 26 March (data available for the week ending 20th of March) https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationa...

Data from Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 testing
PHE Weekly Influenza and COVID-19 Surveillance graphs (data from week 11, between 15 and 21 March 2021) https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk... (particularly Slides 19 - 31)

Data on outbreaks in schools
PHE Weekly Influenza and COVID-19 Surveillance graphs (data from week 11, between 15 and 21 March 2021), see Slides 14-16 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk... (particularly Slides 13 – 17)

Published literature and other evidence
COVID-19 Schools Infection Survey Round 2, England: December 2020 https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationa...
McMaster Living Rapid Evidence Review Update 14: What is the specific role of daycares and schools in COVID-19 transmission? https://www.nccmt.ca/covid-19/covid-19-r...

PHE has also published a rapid evidence review: ‘Transmission of COVID-19 in school settings and interventions to reduce transmission: a rapid review [Update 2]’. The purpose of this rapid review was to identify and examine evidence on COVID-19 transmission within school settings and the effects of school-based interventions in reducing transmission. PHE did not include an assessment of the potential harms of wearing face coverings as this is the responsibility of DfE.

DfE have a dedicated Coronavirus helpline which can be contacted via Email: dfe.coronavirushelpline@education.gov.uk or Telephone: 0800 046 8687.

PHE continues to work closely with DfE and other government departments, as well as stakeholders across the sector, to ensure that policy is based on the latest scientific and medical advice, to continue to develop comprehensive guidance based on the system of controls and to understand the impact and effectiveness of these measures on staff, pupils and parents. All measures are kept under review based on the latest evidence and DfE with PHE advice updates guidance, as necessary.

I hope this information is helpful to you.

Yours sincerely

Scott
Correspondence and Public Enquiries Officer
Public Health England
phe.enquiries@phe.gov.uk
www.gov.uk/phe Follow us on Twitter @PHE uk

FOI, Public Health England

1 Attachment

OFFICIAL
Dear Margaret Johnson,

Please find attached Public Health England's response to your request.

FOI Team
Public Accountability Unit
Public Health England
[Public Health England request email]
Tel: 020 8327 6920
www.gov.uk/phe Follow us on Twitter @PHE uk

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We don't know whether the most recent response to this request contains information or not – if you are PT please sign in and let everyone know.