Despite widespread reports that masks are to be required in classrooms as pupils return to schools across the country today, the updated Government guidance shows that this is only a recommendation, not a requirement. Here is the relevant section (emphasis mine).
Where pupils in Year 7 (which would be children who were aged 11 on August 31st 2021) and above are educated, we recommend that face coverings should be worn by pupils, staff and adult visitors when moving around the premises, outside of classrooms, such as in corridors and communal areas. This is a temporary measure.
From January 4th, we also recommend that in those schools where pupils in Year 7 and above are educated, face coverings should be worn in classrooms. 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. This will also be a temporary measure. …
We would not ordinarily expect teachers to wear a face covering in the classroom if they are at the front of the class, to support education delivery, although settings should be sensitive to the needs of individual teachers. …
Face coverings do not need to be worn when outdoors.
Schools, as employers, have a duty to comply with the Equality Act 2010 which includes making reasonable adjustments for disabled staff. They also have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils, to support them to access education successfully. No pupil should be denied education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering.
It should be noted that this is guidance for schools rather than pupils, so a school might decide to follow the Government recommendation by requiring its pupils to wear face masks. However, they should still not deny education to pupils if they do not wear one. The usual exemptions also apply, including where wearing a mask causes “severe distress” and “to avoid the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others” (and let’s face it, how can covering your mouth and nose for most of the day with an item that obstructs breathing, gathers germs, contains harmful levels of toxic substances, and prevents normal human interaction not put you at risk of harm?).
Government coronavirus guidance can be found here.
If readers have any stories of pupils being penalised for not wearing a mask you can email us here.
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