Here are the arguments for and against children in England wearing face masks when they return to school

Tuesday, 25th August 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 25th August 2020, 11:45 am
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has updated its advice regarding face masks and children (Photo: Shutterstock)

The Scottish government has announced that secondary school pupils will have to wear face masks in corridors, communal areas and on school buses from Monday 31 August.

But will it be compulsory for pupils in England to wear face masks when they return to school in September?

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Will wearing face masks in schools become compulsory in England?

Currently, there are no plans for students to have to wear face coverings when they return to school in England from 1 September.

Schools minister Nick Gibb has said that school children will not be expected to wear masks in either primary or secondary school, explaining that this decision is “led by science”.

“Within a school, of course, you’re not with people that you don’t meet normally, you see these same children every day, so there are different circumstances – when you’re on public transport for example, when you’re encountering people you’ve not come across or met before,” said Mr Gibb.

“And that is why you have different rules and things like face coverings for public transport and being in shops from where you are with the same people in the same bubble day in and day out.”

Can schools in England implement their own rules on masks?

In England, some individual schools may make the decision for their pupils to wear face coverings.

Eaton Mill primary in Milton Keynes has said students will need to wear masks on site.

Should face masks be compulsory in schools?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has updated its advice regarding face masks and children.

WHO and Unicef are now advising 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.”

Following the WHO’s change in guidance, pupils over the age of 12 in schools in Scotland will be required to wear face masks from 31 August.

The new guidance will be obligatory in all secondary schools, special schools and grant-aided schools, but it will state that pupils should not be excluded from school if they do not wish to wear one.

Scotland’s Education Secretary John Swinney said: “From August 31, young people over the age of 12 in secondary schools should be habitually wearing face coverings when they’re moving around in schools and corridors and in communal areas where it is difficult to deliver the physical distancing.”

He added that there will be exemptions because wearing face coverings isn’t suitable for everyone.

Will the government review its guidance?

There have been calls for the decisions regarding face masks in English schools to be kept under review.

The shadow education secretary, Kate Green, told Good Morning Britain, "It's certainly something that I think needs to be kept under review, because in other countries they have been used particularly where there have been high levels of infection."

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has also echoed this call for the guidance to be reviewed.

General secretary Geoff Barton told the Daily Telegraph: "We would expect the government in Westminster to review its guidance on the use of face coverings in schools - which currently says they are not required - in light of the WHO guidance and the consultation taking place in Scotland.

"The evidence is clearly evolving on this issue and it is important that it is kept under review and that clear direction is provided to schools."

The UK government is expected to respond to the new WHO guidance during topical questions on Tuesday afternoon (25 August).

However, a Number 10 spokesman has said there were "no plans" to review the guidance on face coverings in schools.

England's deputy chief medical officer, Jenny Harries, said evidence on whether children aged over 12 should wear masks in schools was "not strong".