Pupils will no longer be required to wear face coverings in schools and colleges from 17 May, the Prime Minister has confirmed.
In a press conference this afternoon, the Prime Minister announced that the country’s roadmap out of lockdown is on track and Step 3 will go ahead as planned on 17 May.
The latest data shows infection rates continuing to decrease, deaths and hospitalisations at their lowest level since July, and the vaccine rollout continuing at pace.
In line with this data, pupils will no longer be required to wear face coverings in the classroom or communal areas in schools and colleges. This will improve interaction between teachers and students, ensuring the clearest possible communication to support learning.
Transmission of the virus in schools continues to decrease in line with wider community transmission, with the latest statistics showing a significant drop in the number of teachers and staff testing positive.
The 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.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
John Simpson, Head of Public Health Advice, Guidance and Expertise Pillar (PHAGE) at Public Health England, said:
Children’s Commissioner Rachel de Souza, said:
The recommendation to wear face coverings in classrooms was introduced as a precautionary, temporary measure at a time where rates of coronavirus were high in the community, the school and college regular testing regime was about to begin, and the vaccine programme was in its early stages.
All other protective measures such as ventilation and social distancing where possible will remain in place and regular rapid testing will continue to help find and isolate asymptomatic cases when they do occur.
Staff are not required to wear face coverings in the classroom but should continue to wear them in communal areas such as the staff room, where social distancing may not be possible.
Today’s updated guidance on how schools should operate from Step 3 of the roadmap also confirms that from 17 May, new residential educational visits can take place within the UK.
The Department recommends schools and colleges do not plan for international visits to take place up to and including 5 September, recognising the logistical difficulties that will remain in place this academic year regarding overseas travel with groups of children. The position beyond 5 September will be reviewed in advance of Step 4.
The government say all measures in place for schools and colleges are kept under review based on the latest scientific and medical advice.