Pupils over 11 in Wales recommended to wear face coverings

26 August 2020, 16:15

Pupils over the age of 11 in Wales will be recommended to wear face coverings in school communal areas
Pupils over the age of 11 in Wales will be recommended to wear face coverings in school communal areas. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Pupils over the age of 11 in Wales will be recommended to wear face coverings in school communal areas where social distancing cannot be maintained, the Welsh Government has said.

The new guidance also covers pupils on school transport, college students, and staff and will require schools and local authorities to carry out risk assessments of their sites to determine if the two-metre rule cannot be maintained.

A joint statement by health minister Vaughan Gething and education minister Kirsty Williams said the changes would not include the use of masks in classrooms.

Read more: PM blames 'mutant algorithm' for exam chaos as he welcomes children back to school

The UK Government confirmed on Tuesday that children in year 7 and above should wear face masks in communal areas after Scotland announced their latest guidance.

They said: "The current advice from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales is that face coverings are recommended for all members of the public over 11 years in indoor settings in which social distancing cannot be maintained, including schools and school transport.

"We will amend our operational guidance for schools and FE to require settings and local authorities to undertake risk assessments of their estates to determine if face coverings should be recommended for their staff and young people in communal areas. This will also include school and college transport."

The statement continued: "As part of the risk assessment we recommend that staff, students, families and unions are engaged. Social distancing is still required in the classroom, so face-to-face teaching without coverings can continue.

"The overall interests of the young person must be given priority in these assessments and there must be no risk of exclusion from transport to school.

"Face coverings may need to be provided to young people who don't have them, if they are recommended locally."

Speaking to Nick Ferrari on LBC on Wednesday, Gavin Williamson said the government has taken a "cautious and careful approach" on getting children back into schools.

Asked about public confidence following the U-turn, the education secretary said: "At every stage, what we're focused on is making sure all children return back to school in September.

"We don't want to be seeing children ... wearing masks in schools up and down the country, but in certain areas where it's necessary, where we're in local lockdown.

"This has been typical at every stage of this crisis that we have taken a cautious and careful approach welcoming children back to schools. I think that's what people expect and that's what we're doing in this instance.

"We've seen the move welcomed by unions in terms of clarity that it brings, because there was some concern in the teaching community, quite understandably, when they saw the advice come out from the World Health Organisation."