The UK Government has dropped its advice that students in English secondary schools should not wear face masks.
However, rather than mandating their use in all schools, the government has instead said that individual schools will generally be able to decide on whether they wish their students to use them.
Headteachers of each individual school in England will now have discretion over whether and how face masks should be used in their schools, except in areas of the country where stricter localised Coronavirus restrictions are in place. In these areas, the wearing of face coverings is to be mandatory in communal areas.
On Tuesday afternoon, Labour called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “take a decision” on the wearing of face masks in communal areas in secondary schools, with Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary saying “there is a growing body of evidence” to support their use in such settings.
The change in advice on Tuesday evening came after Scotland’s Education Minister John Swinney announced earlier in the day that pupils aged over 12 years old in Scotland will have to wear face coverings in corridors, communal areas and school buses from Monday 31 August – unless they are exempt for medical reasons. Scotland changed its advice following recent guidance issued by the World Health Organization, which recommends that children over the age of 12 should wear face masks in the same ways as adults.
A decision on the use of face coverings in school settings in Wales is expected to be announced on Wednesday.
The change in advice in England comes a week before students return to the classroom, for many, for the first time since before lockdown measures were implemented in March.