Facemasks to be worn in Scottish schools
The Scottish Government has updated its guidance on the use of facemasks in schools and on school transport.
Following advice published by organisations including the World Health Organisation, facemasks should be worn by adults and pupils in secondary school while they are in corridors and communal areas where physical distancing is difficult to maintain, and by all children aged five and over while using school transport.
The use of masks in classrooms will not generally be necessary as it is easier to maintain social distancing.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “We said that our guidance would be kept under constant review and, following updated scientific and public health advice and the experience of schools reopening, we are making changes that will apply from 31 August.
“There is increasing evidence that face coverings can provide some protection for the wearer as well as those around them. We also know that some pupils have found it very difficult to physically distance when moving around school, which could increase the risk of transmission of the virus. And on school transport, as on public transport, there can be mixing between different age groups.
“We have worked with partners on the Education Recovery Group to update the guidance to ensure face coverings are worn in corridors and confined communal areas in secondary schools, and on school transport.
“Schools will be asked to ensure children and young people have clear instructions on how to put on, remove, and store face coverings. Any staff member or pupil will still be able to wear a face covering when they wish to do so.
“We want to continue to protect what we have achieved in suppressing the virus and re-opening schools, and to do the best for children in schools. Alongside this change to the wearing of face coverings, we need to reinforce the importance of maintaining high standards of cleaning, personal hand and respiratory hygiene and physical distancing, where possible. In situations where there is a local cluster, use of face coverings throughout the day may be required.
“The position will be kept under review to ensure that our approach remains commensurate with the evidence and the levels of transmission in Scotland.”
Teaching union the EIS has welcomed the Scottish Government's announcement. General secretary Larry Flanagan said: “The EIS welcomes this decision by the Scottish Government today, which reflects the updated advice from the World Health Organisation recommending face coverings for those aged 12 and over, where 1m distancing cannot be maintained. Schools are busy places with a large number of adults and young adults moving around. The use of face coverings in these circumstances is a sensible and appropriate step to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading through school communities.
“While we welcome today’s announcement, the EIS believes that effective physical distancing between pupils is the best means of reducing the risk of COVID-19 spread in schools. This is an area where the guidance from the Scottish Government currently lacks specificity; there needs to be a much sharper focus on ensuring social distancing in schools to protect pupils, staff and the wider community. Smaller class sizes to ensure appropriate physical distancing of pupils are essential.
“Across all sectors, smaller classes would be a huge boost, also, to the educational recovery of those pupils most disadvantaged by the impact of lockdown. The Scottish Government, indeed, all political parties within the Scottish Parliament, should prioritise the expenditure required for the extra teachers needed to help our pupils.”