Face Masks in Classroom 'No Longer Required'

Students at secondary schools and colleges in England will not have to wear face masks in the classroom from May 17; also, students can return to university campuses in England from Monday.
Face Masks in Classroom 'No Longer Required'
By Carli Allan
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Students will no longer be required to wear face masks in England's schools, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed. The UK government's recommendation that face masks should be worn by all secondary students will end on Monday, May 17 as part of the phasing out of lockdown measures. Mr Johnson also confirmed today (May 10) the return of students to university campuses in England from May 17.

Students at secondary schools in England (Year 7 and above) have been expected to wear face masks in classrooms and communal areas since the return to school in March. From Monday, face coverings will no longer be recommended for students or staff in classrooms.

The Department for Education said:

"Based on the current state of the pandemic and the positive progress being made, the additional precautionary measures put in place from March 8 for public health reasons are no longer recommended."

It said that the latest data shows infection rates continue to decrease, and the transmission of the virus in schools continues to decrease in line with wider community transmission, "with the latest statistics showing a significant drop in the number of teachers and staff testing positive". The DofE says that not wearing masks will "improve interaction between teachers and students".

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said it was still important for all secondary school students, families and teachers to keep testing themselves twice weekly, to help reduce the risk of transmission.

Commenting on the decision, John Simpson, Head of Public Health Advice, Guidance and Expertise Pillar at Public Health England, said:

"It’s important to strike a balance between COVID-19 protection and student wellbeing and the guidance on face coverings for secondary school pupils has been kept under constant review. Existing control measures in schools including good ventilation, handwashing, social distancing where possible and twice weekly testing remain hugely important."

What does today's announcement mean for schools in England?

  • While face masks are no longer required to be work by students, other protective measures such as ventilation and social distancing will remain in place, as will regular rapid testing.
  • Teachers and school staff should continue to wear face masks in communal areas such as the staff room, where social distancing may not be possible.
  • From May 17, schools can organise residential educational visits within the UK for their students.
  • Schools and colleges are advised against organising international visits to take place up to and including September 5, 2021.

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