What are the rules on face coverings in UK schools?

The Government has faced increasing pressure from teaching unions (Liam McBurney/PA) Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The Government has tweaked the rules for face coverings in schools in England after coming under pressure to follow Scotland’s example, where older pupils will be required to wear face coverings in between lessons from next week.

The PA news agency looks at the policy on face coverings in schools across the UK.

– What measures have been confirmed in Scotland?

Face coverings should be worn by staff and pupils when moving around secondary schools in Scotland from August 31, according to Holyrood’s Education Secretary.

John Swinney said that the rule will apply on school transport for primary school pupils aged five and above, and all those at secondary school in communal areas, but not in classrooms.

– Will England follow suit?

Not quite – but a change has been made to the Government’s original stance.

The guidance from Public Health England (PHE) was that it did not recommend the wearing of face coverings in schools and the Department for Education (DfE) said initially that pupils and staff were mixing in consistent groups, known as “bubbles”, so masks were not necessary.

But on Tuesday evening, the DfE declared that in secondary schools in regions where local lockdowns were in place, such as parts of Greater Manchester, the wearing of face coverings for pupils would be made mandatory in communal areas where social distancing was difficult.

This does not include classrooms and does not apply to primary-aged pupils.

In all other parts of the country, it will be up to headteachers to decide whether masks are required.

– What did the Prime Minister say about it?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had earlier insisted that “schools are safe”, but hinted towards a change of guidance for England’s schools.

On Tuesday, Mr Johnson told reporters that the Government will “look at the changing medical evidence as we go on”, adding: “If we need to change the advice then of course we will.”

Boris Johnson is facing criticism over the return to school Credit: Lucy Young/Evening Standard/PA

– What is the situation in Wales and Northern Ireland?

Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething said a decision on schoolchildren wearing face coverings will be made on Wednesday, but current guidance says masks are not being recommended.

In Northern Ireland, post-primary pupils will be asked to wear face coverings in corridors and other communal areas, Stormont’s education minister Peter Weir said.