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Coronavirus: Face coverings U-turn for England’s secondary schools

Education: Secondary / Wed 26th Aug 2020 at 06:40am

SECONDARY pupils will have to wear masks in school corridors in local lockdown areas of England, after the government reversed its guidance reports the BBC.

Head teachers in any secondary school will also have the “flexibility” to introduce masks in their schools.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson says it follows updated advice from the World Health Organization.

“At each stage we have listened to the latest medical and scientific advice,” said Mr Williamson.

The Department for Education says that, for most areas of England, it is keeping its recommendation against using face coverings – but that schools will be able to make their own decision whether to ask pupils and staff to wear them.

This will be in “communal areas” of schools such as corridors, where it is difficult to have social distancing, and when schools “believe that is right in their particular circumstances”.

But in parts of the country with high levels of coronavirus transmission, such as those with local lockdown measures, the wearing of masks will be compulsory in such communal areas for adults and pupils.

But it will still not be necessary to wear face coverings in the classroom, where “protective measures already mean the risks are lower, and where they can inhibit learning”.

The new guidelines, which apply from 1 September, also warn that “stricter guidance” on face coverings could apply to all schools “if the rate of transmission increases across the whole country”.

The change follows the World Health Organization updating its advice last week, and it now recommends that children aged over 12 should wear masks under the same conditions as adults.

The government had been under pressure over face masks in England’s schools – with secondary schools in Scotland to use them in corridors or shared areas from next week.

Northern Ireland is also now advising masks for secondary school corridors.

And in Wales, a decision on updating the guidance is due on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had earlier said: “We’ll look at the changing medical evidence as we go on, if we need to change the advice then of course we will.”

The ASCL head teachers’ union had warned of confusion about the rules over face coverings – and said there was a lack of clarity over how schools should respond if teachers or pupils wanted to wear masks.

After the government’s change of policy, the union’s leader, Geoff Barton, said school leaders would “welcome the flexibility” of being able to “decide what best suits their circumstances”.

Despite the official guidance against face coverings, some schools had already been preparing to use them.

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