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Coronavirus: Headteachers call for review of rules on mask-wearing in schools


Coronavirus: Headteachers call for review of rules on mask-wearing in schools

Coronavirus: Headteachers call for review of rules on mask-wearing in schools

Coronavirus: Headteachers call for review of rules on mask-wearing in schools 1

Headteachers are calling for the government to review its policy of mask-wearing in schools, ahead of pupils’ return to the classroom next week.

Students in England and Wales are set to resume lessons on Tuesday but the government’s advice does not include the use of face masks, despite their being mandatory in other settings.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said that evidence continues to emerge, the government in Westminster should review its guidance on the matter. Geoff Barton, the union’s general secretary, said a recent decision in Scotland to require masks should also prompt a re-think.


“It would be prudent in the light of the decision in Scotland over face coverings in schools, and the recent guidance by the World Health Organisation, for the government in Westminster to review its existing guidance that face coverings are not required in schools in England, and provide clear direction one way or another,” he said.

“We have two concerns. First, parents, pupils, and staff, will be anxious about the situation and need reassurance from the government about the public health basis for its policy over face coverings in England, rather than it being left entirely to schools to explain the government’s rationale. And, second, if there is going to be any U-turn by the government that it does this sooner rather than later because the start of the new term is imminent.”

On Monday, a Number 10 spokesman said there were “no plans” to review the guidance on face coverings in schools, telling reporters: “We are conscious of the fact that it would obstruct communication between teachers and pupils.”

Ministers dug in further on Tuesday morning, with business minister Alok Sharma telling Sky News: “PHE do not recommend the wearing of face masks in schools … there is no current plan to review that particular guidance.”

Teachers’ unions have been arguing that face masks should be recommended in schools since at least July. The National Education Union this week accused ministers of being “negligent in the extreme” over the issue.

Unison, Britain’s largest trade union which represents a number of non-teaching staff in schools, also today reiterated its call for adults working in schools to be allowed to wear masks.

In Scottish secretary schools, face coverings are to be used in corridors and shared areas. First minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was acting to change the rules in response to new WHO guidance.

But in England and Wales number of schools are known to have broken with guidance and recommended the wearing on face masks on their own accord.

England’s deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries has said the evidence on whether children over 12 should wear masks in schools was “not strong”.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has meanwhile argued that other measures being adopted by schools to limit the spread of coronavirus meant coverings were not necessary.

Schools have been advised to keep students in year-group “bubbles” where they do not interact with other children, and reorganise classrooms for social distancing. Local health teams are expected to intervene in schools where outbreaks are detected, including potentially with mass testings or localised closures.


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