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BORIS JOHNSON’S government is under pressure from Labour and education unions to follow Scotland’s example by enforcing the wearing of face masks by teachers and pupils in secondary schools.
“Obligatory guidance” will be issued that pupils should wear face masks when moving around school from next Monday, Scotland’s Education Secretary John Swinney has confirmed.
And the University College Union in Scotland has called on Holyrood to go further by making masks mandatory on campuses.
Wales’s Health Minister Vaughan Gething said he hoped to make an announcement on whether schoolchildren would be made to wear face coverings by the end of today.
Prime Minister Mr Johnson has been urged to impose such a rule for areas where pupils and teachers cannot safely socially distance — corridors and communal areas, for instance — before the Tories’ big push to return to school in England next Wednesday.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised that children over the age of 12 and teachers should wear face coverings in areas where they cannot keep at least one metre’s distance from others. It added that adults in schools under the age of 60 and who are in good health should wear fabric masks, while those aged over 60 and those who have underlying health conditions should wear medical masks.
Mr Johnson has said that current government guidance, that masks are not required in England’s schools, could be altered if the medical advice changed.
But Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said advice from the WHO “ought to be listened to.”
He said: “It will go some way towards ensuring there is confidence among parents that schools are safe places, so that in-person learning can recommence for all students, which is what we all want to see.”
Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School & College Leaders, said parents and teachers are looking for urgent clarity and consistency about the rules on face masks before most schools start the autumn term.
Shadow education secretary Kate Green said that there is “a growing body of evidence” showing that the use of face masks will drive down transmission of the virus among pupils and teachers.
- Sally Collier quit as head of England’s exam regulator Ofqual yesterday over the shambolic handling of GCSE and A-level grading.
The government made an 11th-hour U-turn this month in allowing downgraded students to receive teachers’ grade predictions rather than the “unfair and unfathomable” results moderated by Ofqual’s flawed algorithm.
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