Children will not be required to wear face coverings in school once they reopen in England on 8 March, although they will be “highly recommended”, according to a government minister.
The roadmap out of lockdown will begin with children returning to classrooms on 8 March, and while the Government is advising secondary school and college students, as well as staff, to wear face coverings in all areas.
‘Not mandatory, but highly recommended’
However, the Schools Minister Nick Gibb has said that face masks will not be mandatory, and teachers are being advised to be aware of pupils’ needs.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Gibb, said: “We are saying it is not mandatory for schools to have masks in classrooms but it is highly recommended because we want to do everything we can to reduce the risk of transmission in the school.
“So there is twice-a-week testing of students, staff as well.
“We have all those measures in place – hand hygiene, the cleaning of surfaces, the ventilation, staggered lunchbreaks and play times – all those measures designed to minimise the risk of infection and transmission within the school.
“And this is one more measure just to help reduce that where you can’t have social distancing in a classroom.”
Back in August, Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the suggestion that children should wear face coverings in schools as “nonsensical”.
He said: “But not (face masks) in the classrooms because that is clearly nonsensical – you can’t teach with face coverings; you can’t expect people to learn with face coverings.”
Speaking to LBC radio this morning, Mr Gibb said: “It is more challenging to teach where you have masks on the children and on the teachers but we have a new variant of this virus which is far more transmissible than the previous variant.
“We are always led in every decision we take by the advice of the chief medical officer, by Sage and the scientists to do everything we can to minimise the risk.”
Concerns have been raised about deaf pupils, who generally rely on lipreading to communicate.
Head of policy at the National Deaf Children’s Society, Ian Noon, said masks could have a “disastrous impact” on the studies of deaf students.
He said: “Public health must take priority, but bringing face masks into classrooms will have a devastating effect on deaf children’s studies, mental health and ability to take part in lessons.
"The government cannot make an announcement and expect this to be enough.
"It must move quickly to show exactly how it will guarantee deaf children can still access their lessons."