Government sets out guidance on school face coverings in England

26 August 2020, 07:45

Face coverings should be worn by secondary pupils and staff in local lockdown areas of England, and at the discretion of post-primary schools across the country
Face coverings should be worn by secondary pupils and staff in local lockdown areas of England, and at the discretion of post-primary schools across the country. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Further guidance on face coverings in England's schools has been published by the Government, which sets out when they are required and pupils that are exempt.

Face coverings should be worn by secondary pupils and staff in local lockdown areas of England, and will be at the discretion of secondary schools across the country, after the Government made another U-turn.

The new guidance issued on Wednesday morning ays that in local lockdown areas face coverings should be worn by staff and students moving around schools in communal areas and corridors from September 1.

Should new local restrictions be imposed, schools will need to communicate "quickly and clearly" the new arrangements to staff, parents and pupils.

It says that all schools and colleges will have the discretion to require face coverings in communal areas where social distancing cannot be safely managed - such as when the layout of a school makes it difficult to do so.

Where a student or staff member is struggling to access a mask, or if it soiled or unsafe, the guidance says that schools should take steps to have a "small contingency supply" available, adding no-one should excluded on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering.

Exemptions to the new measures include those who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability, or if a person is speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate.

The change follows World Health Organisation (WHO) advice that children aged over 12 should wear masks, the Government said.

Gavin Williamson said the Government wants to create an environment with safety at its "absolute core" as schools get set to return across England.

He said: "As we look towards next week and the following week as more and more schools come back, we want to create an environment that has safety at the absolute core of everything that we do.

"Because the safety for pupils, the safety for those who work in schools, is absolutely critical for all of us."

Mr Williamson added: "What we're recommending in terms of mandating the wearing of face coverings in communal areas for secondary schools is only in a very, very small number of areas in the country which are in local lockdown.

"What we're doing is we recognise that there are added concerns in those communities about transmission.

"But we also recognise how important it is for every child to get back."

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