Government U-turn on guidance for pupils wearing face coverings at school

The reversal of guidance meaning secondary school pupils will have to wear masks in parts of England follows similar directions issued north of the border.

By Ryan Smith
Wednesday, 26th August 2020, 7:47 am

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the change followed updated advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) saying children aged over 12 should wear masks.

Face coverings will have to be worn in communal areas of schools in areas where local lockdowns have been introduced, and headteachers will have the option to ask pupils to wear them elsewhere in the country.

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Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced that face coverings will be mandatory in schools where lockdown measures are stricter than other parts of England. Photo: PA.

The new guidance – which also said masks will not be needed in classrooms – followed pressure from teaching unions and Scotland’s announcement along similar lines.

There, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said face coverings would be obligatory from Monday, August 31 in corridors and on school transport, adding: “There is increasing evidence that face coverings can provide some protection for the wearer as well as those around them.

“We also know that some pupils have found it very difficult to physically distance when moving around school, which could increase the risk of transmission of the virus.”

The change in England comes after Mr Williamson insisted measures being adopted by schools to limit the spread of coronavirus meant masks were not required and a day after a Number 10 spokesman said there were no plans to review the guidance.

Speaking on Sky News on Wednesday, August 26, the Education Secretary said the most important factors for reducing transmission are hand washing and social distancing, adding: “Face coverings are just the icing on the cake.”

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