Face coverings to go in Scottish secondary classes

10/02/22. PA stockshot of a face mask with school stationary. PA Images
Face coverings will go in classes at Scottish secondary schools. Credit: PA Images

Secondary school pupils in Scotland will no longer have to wear face coverings in classes from February 28.

The Scottish Government announced the change in policy this afternoon, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon making a statement in the Scottish Parliament.

Changes will also be made to rules on assemblies and transition visits for new pupils.

Coverings though will still be needed in communal areas.

This change comes a few days after Ms Sturgeon announced that coverings would remain in Scottish secondaries.

Today she said: “In recent weeks I have promised to keep Parliament and school communities updated on mitigations within schools - including the use of face coverings within classrooms.

“I have been clear that we do not want to keep these measures in place for any longer than is necessary but that we must continue to be led by scientific and expert advice.

“On Tuesday our advisory subgroup on education and children’s issues met to discuss a number of issues, including the use of face coverings. The group reiterated its previous position that the removal of mitigations in schools should follow a phased approach. It also advised that the next phase could begin after the February half-term break, with the removal of face-coverings in classrooms – for both pupils and staff - on 28 February."

She pointed to reducing Covid-19 case rates, a low R number and a strong uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine as reasons which have helped influence the change.

“This change represents a further step in allowing our children and young people to return to a more normal school experience after many months of sacrifice," Ms Sturgeon added.

“We currently expect that face coverings will still be worn outside the classroom, in indoor communal areas of schools, after 28 February. This will be kept under regular review. In addition, anyone who wants to continue wearing a face covering in classrooms will, of course, be supported to do so.”

The Scottish Conservatives have pressed ministers on the issue for weeks, with leader Douglas Ross saying: "Young people's education has been unnecessarily disrupted for far too long."

He added: "Finally, after weeks of refusing to budge, the Government has U-turned.

"While it is welcome, it has taken much longer than was necessary."

Ms Sturgeon insisted: "Had we done it before today, we would have been acting against expert and scientific advice - it would have been the wrong thing to do.

"We are doing it now at the right time and in line with advice and I think that marks the responsibility of this Government in contrast with the irresponsibility of the main opposition."

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also welcomed the move, but said that "after almost two years, this will add anxiety for staff and workers in schools as well as for parents".

He said it makes the need for ventilation and air filters in classrooms "more crucial", insisting: "We need a credible plan from the Government on those issues."

Meanwhile, the latest figures show Scotland recorded 24 coronavirus-linked deaths and 7,275 new cases in the last 24 hours.

The Scottish Government data means the total number of people who have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 has risen to 10,485.

The daily figures have included lateral flow test results since January 6 following a change to testing policy.

There were 904 people in hospital on Wednesday with recently confirmed Covid, down 30 on the previous day, with 19 in intensive care, down two.

So far, 4,424,596 people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination, 4,139,618 have had a second dose, and 3,332,960 have received a third dose or booster.