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Schools: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Education

UIN 126589, tabled on 21 February 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether he has plans to prevent headteachers from requiring children to wear masks in schools following the end of compulsory indoor mask mandates.

Answered on

1 March 2022

On 21 February, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out the next phase of the government’s COVID-19 response. COVID-19 continues to be a virus that we learn to live with and the imperative to reduce the disruption to children and young people’s education remains.

Our priority continues to be to deliver face-to-face, high-quality education to all pupils. The evidence is clear that being out of education causes significant harm to educational attainment, life chances and mental and physical health. We have worked closely with the Department of Health and Social Care and the United Kingdom Health Security Agency produce guidance.

While face coverings are no longer advised for pupils, staff and visitors in classrooms or communal areas, schools should consider seeking additional public health advice if they are concerned about managing risks to face-to-face education and are considering additional measures, either by phoning the DfE helpline (0800 046 8687, option 1) or in line with other local arrangements.

Individual schools continue to have responsibility for putting in place proportionate control measures in compliance with health and safety law, to ensure they meet their health and safety duties.

Decision-makers should endeavour to keep any measures in education and childcare to the minimum number of providers or groups possible, and for the shortest amount of time possible.

Providers must regularly review and update their risk assessments - treating them as ‘living documents’, as the circumstances in their school, college or nursery and the public health advice changes. This includes having active arrangements in place to monitor whether the controls are effective and working as planned.

Face coverings in communal areas may temporarily, and exceptionally, be advised by Directors of Public Health (DsPH):

● for an individual provider, as part of their responsibilities in outbreak management

● for providers across areas where the department and public health experts judge the measure to be proportionate, based on the evidence public health experts share with the department and specific local public health concerns. For example, where the area has been designated as an enhanced response area, and where transmission patterns may put exceptional local pressure on the healthcare system. This is a temporary measure.

Face coverings in classrooms and teaching spaces may temporarily, and exceptionally, be advised by DsPH for an individual provider, as part of their responsibilities in outbreak management.

In all cases any educational and wellbeing drawbacks in the recommended use of face coverings should be balanced with the benefits in managing transmission. Where recommended, the use of face coverings should be kept under regular review and lifted as soon as the evidence supports doing so. Further information can be found in the Contingency Framework: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1053310/Contingency_framework.pdf.