What does the new advice say – when will pupils have to wear face coverings?
New guidance sets out that in areas of the country with high transmission rates and subject to local restrictions, staff and pupils in year 7 and above – including staff and learners at FE colleges and other providers - should wear face coverings in corridors and communal areas where social distancing cannot be maintained.
We have also given all schools and colleges the discretion to ask staff, pupils and learners in year 7 and above to wear face coverings in the same situations, if they believe that it is right in their particular circumstances. This may be the case where the layout of a school or college makes it particularly difficult to socially distance while young people and staff are moving around between lessons.
What about in the classroom – should pupils wear face coverings then?
No. Face coverings will not generally be necessary in the classroom even where social distancing is not possible. In classrooms the protective ‘system of controls’ will be in place and pupils will be within their consistent groups or bubbles. Face coverings can have a negative impact on communication and teaching so their use in the classroom should be avoided.
Why the change now?
We have always said that our guidance would be based on the most up to date recommendations from top scientists and medical experts. The World Health Organisation published a statement on 21 August about children and face coverings. It now advises that “children aged 12 and over should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults, in particular when they cannot guarantee at least a 1-metre distance from others and there is widespread transmission in the area.” As a result, we changed the guidance for schools and FE colleges so it is in line with this advice.
Does this apply to primary schools?
No. This revised approach will apply to secondary schools, further education colleges and other further education providers and will be reflected in guidance to universities, but not to children in primary schools where the risks to children are lower.