Do teachers have to wear face masks in school?

Overview

The government has revised its guidance on face masks for school staff and children in Year 7 or above in England. Nationwide, while the government is not recommending face masks are necessary, schools will have the discretion to require face masks in communal areas if they believe that is right in their particular circumstances.

Face coverings will not generally be necessary in the classroom even where social distancing is not possible. The Department for Education (DfE) explains face coverings can have a negative impact on learning and teaching and so their use in the classroom should be avoided.

Teachers wearing face masks: what does the guidance say?

The DfE has published guidance for schools and other education institutions that pupils in years 7 and above in England. There is separate guidance for early years and childcare providers and schools with children in year 6 and below.

The DfE explains that this is guidance, not mandatory activity, and any legal exemptions that apply to the wearing of face coverings in shops and on public transport also apply to this new advice.

The DfE states schools and colleges will have the discretion to require face coverings in communal areas where social distancing cannot be safely managed, if they believe that it is right in their particular circumstances.

Examples of where education leaders might decide to recommend the wearing of face coverings – for pupils and staff – in communal areas of the education setting include:

  • Where the layout of the school or college makes it particularly difficult to maintain social distancing when staff and pupils are moving around  the premises
  • Where on top of hygiene measures and the system of controls recommend in the full opening guidance to schools and FE colleges and providers, permitting the use of face coverings for staff, pupils or other visitors would provide additional confidence to parents to support a full return of children to school or college

The DfE explains when anybody is struggling to access a face covering, or where they are unable to use their face covering due to having forgotten it or it having become soiled or unsafe, education settings should take steps to have a small contingency supply available to meet such needs.

No-one should be excluded from education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering.

Face masks: what are schools doing?

Neil Strowger, the chief executive officer of the Bohunt Education Trust, which has seven schools in the south-east of England, has said in an article on the Guardian: “We are encouraging our community to wear masks inside, as there is evidence to support their use, but we are clear that students and staff are not required to wear them.”

Little Community School in Derby explains that pupils will be allowed to wear a disposable/single-use face mask while in school.

If you are concerned about your school’s approach to face masks you can contact us for further advice and support.

We have also published another article which looks at the steps of fully reopening schools from September.

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