Olympus Academy Trust CEO Dave Baker

Parents asked to wear face masks at school gates after complaints about Covid-deniers

"There are conspiracy theories among some parents who think there’s no virus anyway"


Some Bristol schools are asking parents to wear face masks when picking up and dropping off children – after receiving complaints about Covid-deniers.

Olympus Academy Trust – which runs nine schools in and around Bristol – announced the policy after the actions of some parents at pick-up and drop-off times left others “really anxious”.

The trust runs Winterbourne Academy, Patchway Community School, Bradley Stoke Community School, Abbeywood Community School, Filton Hill Primary School, Meadowbrook Primary School, Stoke Lodge Primary School, Callicroft Primary Academy and Charborough Road Primary School.

Its CEO Dave Baker said: “We’ve had some children not in school since March who are anxious and their parents are anxious about coronavirus.

“Then there are a load of others who aren’t bothered. There are conspiracy theories among some parents who think there’s no virus anyway.

“When you put these people in the same place, some parents have been concerned about others coming too close to them, and not respecting social distancing.

“A number of parents came forward to headteachers at our schools, saying they’ve found this really difficult.”

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At the weekend, the trust told parents they would be asked to wear face coverings when picking up and dropping off at all its schools from Monday (September 14).

Mr Baker said: “I’ve only seen positive comments, although one of my headteachers mentioned what was described as a ‘social media s***storm’ about it.”

There were more than 140 Facebook comments after Bradley Stoke’s Meadowbrook Primary School shared the new guidance on Sunday.

One mum described it as a “good idea”, but another wrote: “I will not!”

A third woman commented: “If the school doesn’t feel safe then they shouldn’t be open! Its [sic] as simple as that. I will not be wearing a mask.”
Olympus Academy Trust CEO Dave Baker

Mr Baker told Bristol Live: “Life is too short for me to worry about comments on social media all the time.

“It’s not enforceable, so it’s a polite request to parents. Yes, there’s been some noise on social media, which I’m not surprised about. It doesn’t mean we’re wrong.”

The Olympus chief believes it was important to support families who were concerned about the lack of social distancing.

He added: “We didn’t have parents complaining at all our schools, but if we brought this in at one school and not others, we would get slagged off.

“There’s been a large amount of compliance. I’ve had messages from a couple of headteachers saying parents have been really grateful.

“The haters aren’t necessarily going to make themselves known in that way – they’d rather go on their keyboards and do it online.

“I’m not fussed about that. We know cases have been rising in the Bristol area, and some schools confirmed cases last week. We do not want to be the next one.”

Mr Baker believes the policy could soon become guidance for schools across the country. He described Olympus’ move as a “pre-emptive strike”.

“We’re not trying to make life difficult but in pretty much every other situation where you’re coming into contact with others, you have to wear a face covering – we’re not being unreasonable.”

The trust has also warned secondary school pupils will be sent home if they do not wear face masks when required, unless they have a valid reason.

It wrote to parents: “You are hopefully aware that, as part of our planning for safety on all sites, we have implemented an expectation in all our secondary settings that face coverings (either masks or visors) must be worn except when in class, outside or at lunch.

“We realise that this cultural change will take a few days to embed and have been issuing masks to those who have forgotten them in the first few days.

“It is already compulsory for face coverings to be worn in all our secondary settings but from Monday, September 21, it will be non-negotiable for students and staff to wear face coverings, unless they have a medical exemption, and students will be sent home to get their face masks if they do not bring them from that point forward.

“We cannot compromise the safety and well-being of our school communities because of the attitude and conduct of a small minority.”

Mr Baker says this expectation has been accepted “pretty well” by most pupils and families, but added: “A few kids can’t be bothered or don’t believe in it.”

He wants children at Olympus schools to feel safe so they can relax and do their best possible work at schools.

“Attendance has been fantastic in the first week back,” he added.

“We haven’t brought in the same rules for primary school pupils because the science says the virus is not a danger to them in the same way, and also that they don’t seem to spread it in the same way.”