The government is set to make yet another major coronavirus U-turn by announcing that face masks will be near-mandatory in secondary schools, reports suggest.
According to Tes, Public Health England and the Department for Education have signed off on the new policy, which will see the compulsory wearing of face coverings in communal areas. An announcement is expected as early as this afternoon.
The U-turn comes after it was announced that secondary students in Scotland will have to wear face coverings in school corridors and communal areas from Monday.
is anyone keeping tabs on the number of COVID policy changes in England precipitated by Nicola Sturgeon doing it first— Jim Pickard (@PickardJE) August 25, 2020
Speaking this morning, Boris Johnson said that the current guidance – which does not recommend masks being worn in schools – could be adjusted if the medical advice is changed.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan is reportedly “moving towards” students in the capital wearing face coverings when they are unable to socially distance in schools.
Although the World Health Organisation advises that children aged 12 and over should wear masks, the government has previously insisted that it is safe for pupils to return to school without them.
On a visit to Devon today, Johnson said: “The overwhelming priority is to get all pupils into school.
“And I think that the schools, the teachers, they’ve all done a fantastic job of getting ready and the risk to children’s health, the risk to children’s wellbeing from not being in school, is far greater than the risk from Covid.
“If there are things we have to do to vary the advice on medical grounds, we will, of course, do that. But as the chief medical officer, all our scientific advisers, have said, schools are safe.”
Addressing the likely U-turn, Mary Bousted – joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union – told TES: “This was probably inevitable following the announcement that it had been mandated by the Scottish government and following the advice from the World Health Organisation on the need for masks.
“What would be nice, though, is if on major changes like this we didn’t first of all have denial and then a U-turn from the Department for Education, which creates needless uncertainty and further reinforces the impression that they are all over the place.”