By Rachael Grealish
After months of homeschooling due to COVID-19, children are preparing to return to school next week and with one last minute U-turn pupils will be required to wear face masks.
The education secretary, Gavin Williamson, released a statement yesterday, Tuesday August 25, saying ‘local lockdown areas children in year 7 and above should wear face coverings in communal spaces’.
This means schools in Greater Manchester, Leicester and Blackburn will require pupils to wear face masks – outside of these areas it is not required, but schools will have the power and flexibility to introduce these measures.
Mr Williamson said: “Our priority is to get children back to school safely. At each stage we have listened to the latest medical and scientific advice.
“We have therefore decided to follow the World Health Organisation’s new advice. In local lockdown areas children in year 7 and above should wear face coverings in communal spaces.
“Outside of local lockdown areas face coverings won’t be required in schools, though schools will have the flexibility to introduce measures if they believe it is right in their specific circumstances. I hope these steps will provide parents, pupils and teachers with further reassurance.”
Previously the government was not going to make face masks mandatory in schools but after pressure from unions, opposition parties and schools a decision was made in the 11th hour to make a U-turn.
The last-minute changes came after the Scottish government ordered the use of face coverings in communal areas of secondary schools and Wales announced it was reviewing the policy.
This isn’t the only recent U-turn made by Boris Johnson and his government – in recent weeks the NHS surcharge for staff from overseas was revised, summers school meals vouchers were granted to children eligible for free school meals and, most recently, pupils with GCSE and A-Level results downgraded by the algorithm had their teachers grades reinstated.