Boris Johnson hints at U-turn on face masks in English schools

25 August 2020, 13:52

Boris Johnson has hinted that England could introduce face masks in schools
Boris Johnson has hinted that England could introduce face masks in schools. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Boris Johnson has hinted that the rules on the wearing of face coverings in English schools could be subject to change - saying "if we need to change the advice then of course we will".

Currently, school children in England will not be required to wear a face mask when pupils return to schools next month.

But in Scotland - where schools have already re-opened - pupils aged 12 and over are now required to wear one in an attempt to stem the spread of Covid-19.

Northern Irish education minister Peter Weir is also recommending staff and pupils wear face coverings in corridors and other communal areas when schools reopen.

The Welsh Government is set to review mask wearing, with health minister Vaughan Gething asking a scientific advisory group to consider the current guidance.

Speaking on Tuesday, the Prime Minister said: "There's far more risk to the wellbeing of our children from not going to school than there is from the disease.

"So that's my priority. On the issue of whether or not to wear masks in some contexts we will look at the changing medical evidence as we go on.

"If we need to change the advice then of course we will."

His statement today marks a change in position from the government on the topic of masks in schools.

Yesterday, a spokesperson claimed there were "no plans" to review the guidance.

They added: "We are conscious of the fact that it would obstruct communication between teachers and pupils."

The news also comes as the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said masks in schools were "not needed".

Asked about whether secondary school pupils and teachers should wear masks, Mr Williamson said: "We have put a system of controls in place for all schools, whether that is secondary schools or whether that is primary schools, whether that is further education colleges, and whether that is universities, about how they can operate safely.

"But this isn't advice that comes from the Department for Education, this is advice that comes from Public Health England."

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