Schools: Protective Clothing

Department for Education written question – answered on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Labour

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to research findings that COVID-19 is transmitted in aerosols, leading the governments of Japan, Taiwan, Italy, Spain and France to insist on mask wearing inside classrooms, what assessment they have made of making masks mandatory in UK schools, as advised by the WHO; whether they plan to introduce such measures; and if not, whether they can provide the scientific advice for not doing so.

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

At each stage of the department’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, we have listened to the latest medical and scientific advice, and if we think that the guidance should be revised based on further evidence then we will not hesitate to act swiftly and decisively.

On 21 August, the World Health Organisation published a new statement advising that “children aged 12 and over should wear a mask under the same condition as adults, in particular when they cannot guarantee at least a 1-metre distance from others and there is widespread transmission in the area”. As a result, the department has revised its guidance on face coverings in schools and colleges, which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-in-education/face-coverings-in-education.

As the guidance outlines, in areas of national government intervention, face coverings should be worn by staff, visitors and pupils in secondary schools when moving around indoors, such as in corridors or communal areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain. Otherwise, all schools, including primary schools, have the discretion to require the use of face coverings by adults and pupils in year 7 and above in indoor communal areas where social distancing cannot be safely managed. Children in primary school do not need to wear a face covering.

Based on current evidence, and in light of the mitigating measures that schools are already putting in place, face coverings will not be necessary in the classroom. Face coverings would have a negative impact on teaching and their use in the classroom should be avoided.

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