Secondary Education: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 24th March 2021.

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Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent assessment he has made of the effect of masks on levels of (a) learning and (b) development in secondary school students.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

The Department continues to work closely with other Government Departments throughout its response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including Public Health England (PHE) and the Department of Health and Social Care, as well as stakeholders across the sector. The Department is continuing to work to ensure that our policy is based on the latest scientific and medical advice, in order to develop comprehensive guidance based on the PHE-endorsed ‘system of controls’ and to understand the effect of these measures on staff, pupils and parents.

On 22 February, the Department published ‘Evidence summary: COVID-19 - children, young people and education settings’, which includes a section on face coverings, details of which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/evidence-summary-covid-19-children-young-people-and-education-settings.

The Department recently published updated guidance for schools to support the return to full attendance, which includes updated advice on face coverings. The guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak.

In addition, the Department also published updated guidance on the use of face coverings in education for schools and other education institutions that teach people in Years 7 and above in England which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-in-education.

As the guidance outlines, in settings where pupils in Year 7 and above are educated, we recommend that face coverings should be worn by staff and pupils when moving around the premises, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing cannot easily be maintained.

Since 8 March, the Department has recommended that face coverings should also be worn by staff and pupils in classrooms and in other learning environments, such as workshops, and during activities, unless social distancing can be maintained.

The best available scientific evidence is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of COVID-19 droplets in certain circumstances, helping to protect others.

We recognise that the wearing of face coverings may impact communication, but, on balance, increased use of face coverings will strengthen the current safety measures in place in schools following the increased transmissibility of new COVID-19 variants and whilst prevalence remains high in the community.

We are recommending these additional precautionary measures for a for a time limited period until Easter. As with all measures, we will keep this under review and update guidance as necessary.

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