Closed petition Ban the use of face masks in schools

Face coverings should be banned in schools as they can inhibit communication which could restrict learning and could create social stigma.

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I don't believe there is enough research about the effect that face masks can have on children in a school, so they should be banned until there is. The 'precautionary principle' should be applied.

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Government responded

This response was given on 28 April 2021

Following a review of the latest evidence, in line with public health advice, the DfE recommend face coverings continue to be worn in accordance with our guidance, unless an individual is exempt.

Read the response in full

The safety of teachers, staff, students and pupils is of the utmost importance to the Department for Education. We all want to get back to face covering-free classrooms as soon as the scientific advice allows while balancing the interests of students, teachers and the wider community.

Based on the available evidence, PHE has advised that the system of controls is the best way to reduce risk in education settings, this includes wearing face coverings where recommended. The best available scientific evidence is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) droplets in certain circumstances, helping to protect others.

Taking the available scientific evidence and educational intelligence into account, our guidance provides the following recommendations on wearing face coverings in schools and colleges:

• In secondary schools and FE colleges, where pupils and students in year 7 and above are educated, face coverings should be worn by staff, adults and pupils (including visitors) when moving around the premises, outside of classrooms, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing cannot easily be maintained.

• In those schools and FE colleges, face coverings should be worn by staff, adults and pupils in classrooms or during activities unless social distancing can be maintained. This does not apply in situations where wearing a face covering would impact on the ability to take part in exercise or strenuous activity, for example in PE lessons. Face coverings do not need to be worn by pupils when outdoors on the premises.

• In primary schools and early years settings, face coverings should be worn by staff and adults (including visitors) in situations where social distancing between adults is not possible (for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas). Children in primary school and early years settings should not wear face coverings.

Subject to the roadmap process, as part of step 3, we expect that face coverings will no longer be required in classrooms or by students in communal areas. This will be no earlier than 17th May, and will be confirmed with one week’s notice.

As part of the ongoing face covering review, the Department for Education worked with Public Health England to consider a range of evidence, balancing both the health and educational considerations. This included the latest public health advice and the most recent scientific evidence, as well as polling data from parents and students and intelligence the Department for Education gathered from schools and colleges across the country on their experiences of wearing face coverings in classrooms, and any impacts on teaching, education and communication.

We recognise that the wearing of face coverings may impact communication and mental health. Schools have done a great job in adapting to Covid secure guidance and are working hard to reduce the impact on education. The Secretary of State for Education made this decision based on the latest public health advice balanced with intelligence on the impacts of face coverings on education and children’s mental health and wellbeing. The decision to continue the current policy is a cautious approach that will help limit the risk of transmission and enable a close monitoring of school and college returns. We will seek to remove face coverings at the first safe opportunity, given the negative impact face coverings may have on communication in the classroom.

Some individuals are exempt from wearing face coverings. This applies to individuals who:

• cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical impairment or disability, illness or mental health difficulties

• speak to or provide help to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate.

The same exemptions should be applied in schools, and we would expect teachers and other staff to be sensitive to those needs, noting that some people are exempt from wearing face coverings and the reasons for this may not be visible to others.

No pupil or student should be denied education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering.

Department for Education

Other parliamentary business

Government announces changes to requirements to wear face coverings in schools

The Government has announced that, from 17 May, face coverings will no longer have to be worn in classrooms or communal areas by pupils.

Read the full announcement:

In its announcement, the Government has stated that decreasing infection rates, deaths and hospitalisations being at their lowest level since July, and the vaccine rollout, mean that pupils will no longer be required to wear face coverings in the classroom or communal areas in schools and colleges.

The Government has stated that this decision has taken into consideration the latest scientific evidence, medical advice and stakeholder feedback on the impacts of wearing face coverings in schools and colleges.