education

Face masks in classrooms ‘to be scrapped from May 17’


The guidance is set to be relaxed on the same day indoor household mixing is allowed (Picture: Getty)

Secondary school pupils in England will no longer be told to wear face masks in the classroom from May 17, according to reports.

Boris Johnson is expected to make the announcement on Monday, despite unions warning that an estimated 43,000 children and 114,000 school staff are suffering from long Covid.

Current guidance says face coverings should be warn by pupils and staff in classrooms where social distancing isn’t possible, however it is not mandatory.

It is thought children will still be encouraged to wear masks in corridors and other communal areas after May 17 — when members of different households will be allowed to mix indoors again.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told the Telegraph: ‘As infection rates continue to decline and our vaccination programme rolls out successfully, we plan to remove the requirement for face coverings in the classroom at step three of the road map.’

He added: ‘Removing face masks will hugely improve interactions between teachers and students, while all other school safety measures will remain in place to help keep the virus out of classrooms.’

Masks are currently advised in classrooms when social distancing is not possible (Picture: AFP/Getty Images)

But in a letter to Williamson, five teaching unions, along with scientists, public health experts and parents, urged the Government not to relax the guidance so early.

They said: ‘To strip these necessary protections, when there are already too few mitigation measures in schools, and when rates of Covid-19 are still significant, would have consequences for the health of our children and their parents as well as their communities.’

The letter warns tens of thousands of pupils and staff are still suffering from long covid and urges the Government to ‘consider the global and national evidence on current infection rates in schools when making decisions about face coverings in school’.

It adds: ‘These should be continued in schools after May 17, with review prior to the next stage of the roadmap on June 21.’

Accusing the group of hypocrisy, a Government source told the Telegraph: ‘The very same teachers and union leaders will be entirely happy to go to their mate’s house and mix inside without masks. But they’re against going inside a classroom without a mask.’

A Department for Education spokesperson said: ‘As infection rates continue to decline and our vaccination programme rolls out successfully, we plan to remove the requirement for face coverings in the classroom in line with step three of the road map.

‘Virus transmission in schools continues to drop, with the latest data showing a significant decrease in students and staff testing positive and cases isolated quickly thanks to our twice-weekly rapid testing programme.’

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