Face masks in schools: Wales recommends coverings in secondaries
Written by Gavin on 26th August 2020
The Welsh government has recommended the use of face coverings in communal areas of secondary schools where social distancing is not possible.
The new guidance also applies to pupils over 11 on school transport, along with college students and staff.
It will require schools and local authorities to carry out risk assessments of their sites to determine if the two-metre rule cannot be maintained.
A joint statement by health minister Vaughan Gething and education minister Kirsty Williams said: “The current advice from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales is that face coverings are recommended for all members of the public over 11 years in indoor settings in which social distancing cannot be maintained, including schools and school transport.
“We will amend our operational guidance for schools and FE to require settings and local authorities to undertake risk assessments of their estates to determine if face coverings should be recommended for their staff and young people in communal areas. This will also include school and college transport.”
Mr Gething had asked a scientific advisory group to consider the current coronavirus guidance for the nation’s schools, which are due to return next week.
That came hours before Boris Johnson reversed advice that pupils should not wear face masks in English secondaries, amid growing pressure from headteachers, teaching unions and medical experts.
Meanwhile, a teaching union questioned if the UK government was following scientific advice or “prioritising political expediency” following the U-turn.
Union chiefs had previously urged clarity on wearing masks and sought reassurance for pupils, staff and parents ahead of schools reopening next week.
Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: “It is deeply regrettable that the government has failed to heed concerns until the last possible moment.
“The latest announcement on face coverings raises serious questions about whether the Government is seriously following the scientific advice or is simply prioritising political expediency in order to meet the Prime Minister’s wish to ensure that every school reopens fully at the start of term come what may.
“This latest Government U-turn will raise questions about the statement issued by the UK’s chief medical officers last Sunday that there is a low risk of coronavirus transmission in schools.”
The chief and deputy chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said in a joint statement on Sunday that children have an “exceptionally low risk of dying” from COVID-19.