Secondary school kids WON’T have to wear face masks in classroom from Monday, Boris Johnson confirmsMay 10, 2021
BORIS Johnson tonight announced rules on mask wearing in schools will be scrapped from next Monday as he hailed the next step out of lockdown.
The PM said guidance on the use of face coverings, in place since classrooms reopened on March 8, will be binned for kids across England.
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At a No 10 press conference to mark reaching Stage 3 of his roadmap, he declared: "We will no longer require face coverings in classrooms or for students in communal areas in secondary schools and colleges.
"All remaining university students will be able to return to in person teaching where they should be tested twice a week."
Currently secondary school pupils have to wear masks while at their desks and in communal spaces like corridors.
Children in primaries are exempt from the rules, though teachers and adult visitors are expected to cover up where social distancing isn't possible.
The requirements have proven highly controversial and attracted a legal challenge from a parents' group.
They were initially only supposed to be in place until the Easter holidays, but were then extended until at least May 17.
Under the new guidance headteachers in areas with high rates of Covid will have the discretion to enforce mask wearing.
And it is expected many will still encourage children to choose to wear masks in communal areas like corridors.
The decision has been taken after official figures showed transmission in schools is declining in line with that in the wider population.
Ministers have poured huge resources into a new mass testing regime which now sees all secondary pupils swabbed twice a week.
That programme will continue, with Gavin Williamson saying transmission in schools since they reopened has "“remained low”.
The education secretary has argued removing the need for face masks will “greatly improve” students’ interactions with their teachers.
He has been facing a legal challenge over the rules by the parents' campaign group UsforThem.
It has said the requirements meant “the health and welfare of approximately four million children is at stake”.
But the move to axe mask wearing will anger teaching unions who had demanded they stay in place until at least the end of the summer term.
In a joint letter six of them said face coverings were “an essential part of the wider system of control in schools”.
And they highlighted the risk of staff developing long Covid.
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said he would be sticking by teachers who wanted masks to stay.
But a government source branded the unions' demand hypocritical – as adults will be able to mix indoors without masks from May 17 regardless.
The source added: “The very same teachers and union leaders will be entirely happy to go to their mate's house and mix inside without masks.
“But they're against going inside a classroom without a mask.”
Under the changes announced today university students will also be able to return to in-person lectures from next Monday.
The new guidance says they should also get swabbed twice a week using free tests made available by the Government.
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