Mask guidance on English campuses to ‘reflect’ school advice

Wearing of face coverings by school staff and pupils in communal areas becomes mandatory in areas of high coronavirus transmission

August 26, 2020
Two students standing in social distance wearing face mask
Source: iStock

Government guidance on the wearing of face coverings in English universities is to be updated in line with changing advice to schools.

Issuing new guidance on face coverings for staff and children in Year 7 and above in England, the Department for Education said face coverings should be worn by staff and pupils in corridors and communal spaces, but not classrooms, in areas of high coronavirus transmission.

Ministers said they were not recommending the wearing of masks nationwide, but that “schools will have the discretion to require face coverings in communal areas if they believe that is right in their particular circumstances”.

The revised approach “will be reflected in guidance to universities”, the DfE said. “Updated guidance on face coverings in all education settings will be published shortly and will come into effect from 1 September,” the ministry added.

Previous guidance on reopening university campuses had made no mention of face coverings, apart from flagging the requirement to wear them on public transport.

The change in approach was announced after the World Health Organisation recommended that children aged 12 and over “should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults, in particular when they cannot guarantee at least a 1-metre distance from others and there is widespread transmission in the area”.

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said: “At each stage, we have listened to the latest medical and scientific advice. We have therefore decided to follow the World Health Organisation’s new advice.”

Many UK universities had already planned to require the wearing of masks in at least some areas, according to Times Higher Education research. A survey of 69 institutions found that 53 planned to require staff and students to wear face coverings in communal areas on campus unless they had a medical reason not to.

Twenty-four institutions said staff and students would have to wear face coverings during teaching. A number of institutions, including the universities of Leeds, Bolton and Northampton, said they would be providing clear visors for lecturers to wear in response to concerns that not being able to see an academic’s face properly can make it harder for students, particularly those with hearing difficulties.

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