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Harlow MP Robert Halfon quizzes minister on mask wearing in schools

Covid-19 / Sat 6th Mar 2021 at 06:05pm

HARLOW MP Robert Halfon rose on the floor of the House of Commons to ask questions on mask wearing in schools.

Mr Halfon asked:
“To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what the scientific basis is for his Department’s guidance on the policy that it will not be mandatory for pupils to wear face masks when they return to school premises from 8 March 2021.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether headteachers can enforce the wearing of face masks by all (a) pupils and (b) school staff when school premises are reopened during the covid-19 outbreak from 8 March 2021.

Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

The Department continues to work closely with other Government departments throughout its response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including Public Health England (PHE) and the Department of Health and Social Care, as well as stakeholders across the sector. We continue to work to ensure that our policy is based on the latest scientific and medical advice, in order to develop comprehensive guidance based on the PHE-endorsed ‘system of controls’ and to understand the effect of these measures on staff, pupils and parents.

The Department has recently published updated guidance to support the full opening of education from 8 March, which includes updated advice on face coverings. This guidance can be found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/964351/Schools_coronavirus_operational_guidance.pdf.

Face coverings are not compulsory, and the recently updated guidance does not create any new legal obligations. They are recommended in some circumstances for public health reasons as advised by PHE, whilst some individuals are exempt from wearing face coverings altogether. The same exemptions will apply in schools and childcare facilities, and staff and others should be sensitive to those needs.

As the guidance outlines, where pupils and students in Year 7 and above are educated, the Department recommends that face coverings should be worn by adults and pupils when moving around inside the premises, outside of classrooms, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing cannot easily be maintained.

In addition, from 8 March, the Department now also recommends that in schools where pupils in Year 7 and above are educated, face coverings should be worn in classrooms unless social distancing can be maintained. The Department is recommending these additional precautionary measures for a time limited period until Easter. As with all measures, we will keep this under review and update guidance, as necessary.

In primary schools, the Department recommends that face coverings should be worn by staff and adult visitors in situations where social distancing between adults is not possible, for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas. Children in primary school do not need to wear a face covering and should not be asked to do so.

Schools should use standard behaviour management to enforce the system of controls, as necessary. No pupil should be denied education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering.

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