SCHOOLS in Oxfordshire are preparing to ‘unmask’ and move away from the bubbles system within the next two weeks.

Both the legal requirement to wear a face covering and bubbles system are set to come to an end on July 19.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said wearing a mask will be a matter of ‘personal responsibility’ – although the removal of Covid restrictions is still subject to confirmation on Monday.

However, headteachers in Oxfordshire have said they will keep bubbles as the term draws to a close.

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Rob Pavey, headteacher at Cheney School in Headington, said: “We went back to wearing masks in class two or three weeks ago when we saw cases rising.

“Personally, I would’ve kept them until the end of term but that is only three days after July 19.

“It would’ve made more sense for things to go back to normal in September rather than introducing more change and uncertainty.

“We won’t change anything here yet with bubbles as there’ll be massive disruption.

“If we’re interested in stopping the spread, then sending large groups to self-isolate is the correct thing to do.

“We are going to have to learn to live with this, but next year has to be normal for education.”

Oxford Mail: Cheney School in Headington. Picture: Jon LewisCheney School in Headington. Picture: Jon Lewis

Heather Pallier, acting headteacher at St Gregory the Great Catholic School in Cowley, added: “For us, because there’s been so many changes and guidelines, we’ve followed the advice, which makes it easier to navigate everything.

“If staff and pupils feel strongly about something, then we will listen to those views.

“Young people remain very worried, as are their family members.

“In general, we will keep the bubbles – they have minimised the risk of infection and it’s easier for us to contact trace.

“Without bubbles, there’s a lot more people to contact trace.

“We’ll look at what happens in the summer and closely monitor things ready for September.”

Michael Waine, chairman of Oxfordshire County Council’s education scrutiny committee, spent 27 years as headteacher at Glory Farm Primary School in Bicester.

He said: “My own view is that schools should be able to make decisions for themselves.

“I think young people on the whole are sensible enough to make their own decisions and are very aware of the ramifications.

“I do think there are situations where you have to use your initiative – in Oxford at the moment, the numbers are very high so I would certainly wear a mask in those situations.

“The bubble system does act indiscriminately on children and they miss out on time which they will never make up.

“We’ve got to return to normality at some point and grow to live with Covid – the next big step is addressing whether teenagers should be vaccinated that’s what the latest research is going into.”