Millions of children in England will have to wear face masks at school after government U-turn

26 August 2020, 07:16 | Updated: 26 August 2020, 07:45

Face masks in schools will be compulsory in some areas of England
Face masks in schools will be compulsory in some areas of England. Picture: Getty Images/PA Images

Children in secondary schools in England will now have to wear face masks in high transmission areas.

A large number of kids in secondary schools in England will now have to wear face masks, the government has ruled.

Despite insisting he would not make face coverings compulsory, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has now said they must be worn in schools covered by local lockdowns.

This applies to areas of ‘high Covid transmission’, currently including large areas of the North West.

While pupils will have to wear masks in communal areas, such as hallways, they will not be asked to wear them in classrooms.

Boris Johnson's government has changed face mask rules
Boris Johnson's government has changed face mask rules. Picture: PA Images

As for the rest of the country, it will be up to secondary school headteachers themselves as to whether they implement the rules.

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This comes after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said they would be compulsory in all Scottish secondary schools from next week.

Advice from the World Health Organisation says that over-12s should wear masks if they cannot keep at least one metre apart and there is widespread transmission of coronavirus in the community.

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Mr Williamson said last night: “Our priority is to get children back to school safely. At each stage we have listened to the latest medical and scientific advice.

“We have therefore decided to follow the World Health Organisation's new advice. In local lockdown areas children in year seven and above should wear face coverings in communal spaces.

“Outside of local lockdown areas face coverings won't be required in schools, though schools will have the flexibility to introduce measures if they believe it is right in their specific circumstances.

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“I hope these steps will provide parents, pupils and teachers with further reassurance.'

The Department for Education has confirmed the rules will also apply in sixth-form colleges and universities.

The ASCL head teachers' union had warned there is a lack of clarity over how schools should respond if staff or children wanted to wear masks.

Northern Ireland is also now advising masks for secondary school corridors, while a decision is being made in Wales on Wednesday.

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