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Schools: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Education

UIN 41622, tabled on 3 September 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if he will publish the scientific advice on which he based his decision to remove the requirement for wearing face coverings in secondary schools from 17 May 2021; and if he will make a statement.

Answered on

15 September 2021

From 17 May, the Department no longer recommended face coverings for pupils in classrooms or communal areas in schools, or for staff in classrooms. In Step 4 of the roadmap, face coverings were no longer advised for pupils, staff and visitors either in classrooms or in communal areas.

The Department worked closely with Public Health England (PHE) and the Cabinet Office to consider a range of evidence, balancing both health and educational considerations. This included the latest available education data, latest data analysis on case rates in secondary school age children and the broader COVID-19 epidemiological position, as well as stakeholder intelligence from schools and further education colleges on their experiences of wearing face coverings in classrooms and any perceived effect on teaching, education, and communication.

As COVID-19 becomes a virus that we learn to live with, there is now an imperative to reduce the disruption to children and young people’s education, particularly given that the direct clinical risks they face are extremely low and the wider success of the vaccine programme.

The reintroduction of face coverings for pupils, or staff, may be advised for a temporary period in response to particular localised outbreaks, including variants of concern. In all cases, any educational drawbacks should be balanced with the benefits of managing transmission.

The Department’s policy on face coverings and other control measures is kept under review and is informed by the latest scientific and medical advice from PHE.