The government's Face coverings in education guidance states that with effect from 1 September, new advice for settings with children in Year 7 and above (in England) applies. It is important to note that it is not recommending that they are mandatory or necessary in all schools. The guidance provides examples where they may be considered an appropriate recommendation, including where it is difficult to social distance when moving around the school or college site. With regards to classrooms, the guidance states “face coverings will not generally be necessary in the classroom even where social distancing is not possible”.
Types of face coverings and using them safely
Information on the types of masks, how to choose them, and how to wear them is available here and details are available on how to put on, remove, store and dispose of face coverings.
We are aware of schools and colleges using a range of precautionary measures, including: acrylic/perspex screens/panels to divide desks and workstations, visors (made in school), outdoor structures such as marquees to maximise space and utilise ventilated spaces, and extended lunchtimes between 11am and 2pm.
There is additional guidance for schools in local intervention (lockdown) areas (in England). In this situation the guidance states in settings where Year 7 and above are educated, face coverings should be worn by adults and pupils when moving around, where social distancing is difficult to maintain, for example, in corridors and communal areas.
The guidance on implementing protective measures says that “the majority of staff in education settings will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work, even if they are not always able to maintain a distance of 2 metres from others”. Exceptions to this include:
- children, young people and students whose care routinely already involves the use of PPE due to their intimate care needs should continue to receive their care in the same way
- if a child, young person or other learner becomes unwell with symptoms of coronavirus while in their setting and needs direct personal care until they can return home. A face mask should be worn by the supervising adult if a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained. If contact with the child or young person is necessary, then gloves, an apron and a face mask should be worn by the supervising adult. If a risk assessment determines that there is a risk of splashing to the eyes, for example from coughing, spitting, or vomiting, then eye protection should also be worn
Individual school leaders can take the decision in their own settings, taking into account disability considerations (e.g. lip reading) and exemptions. Face coverings (or any form of medical mask where instructed to be used for specific clinical reasons) should not be worn in any circumstance by those who may not be able to handle them as directed (for example, young children, or those with special educational needs or disabilities) as it may inadvertently increase the risk. Also refer to the guidance providing advice on when you do not need to wear a face covering
Scientific background information
The World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef guidance
advise “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.”
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies published a paper by NERVTAG/EMG on the Role of Aerosol Transmission in COVID-19
on 7 August, that was considered at SAGE 48 on 23 July. The paper states it is “advisable to encourage face covering in addition to ventilation, social distancing and hand hygiene to interrupt transmission. They should particularly be encouraged in indoor environments with poor ventilation or when large numbers of people congregate to reduce risk of super spreading events.” It also advises that the highest risk of transmission is close range (i.e. less than 2m) due to the potential combination of droplets, aerosols, and contaminated surfaces.
The section titled ‘Control Measures for Airbourne Infection' makes the following specific reference to schools in the context of good ventilation being recognised a primary measures for controlling the risk of transmission of airbourne diseases: “Those spaces where there are several people in close proximity for a period of 30 minutes or more (e.g. social spaces, schools and university lecture rooms, meeting rooms, performance spaces) or where an infectious person is more likely to be present (e.g. GP surgeries, pharmacies) should be prioritised for mitigation.
Please also refer to: Risk assessment: Do pupils have to wear face coverings on school buses?
where there is specific transport-related information.