Face coverings in secondary schools will not be compulsory, says minister

The Canary

Face coverings and asymptomatic coronavirus (Covid-19) tests in secondary schools will not be compulsory when pupils in England return to class next month, the schools minister has confirmed.

Not compulsory

Nick Gibb acknowledged that it’s “more challenging” to teach with face masks, but he said wearing face coverings is “highly recommended”.

He appealed to parents to allow their secondary school-age children to take part in regular voluntary rapid coronavirus tests when classrooms reopen from March 8.

He told Times Radio:

Of course we can’t make it mandatory on parents but we just hope that most parents will see the wisdom of testing their children twice a week.

Over the first two weeks of term, secondary school and college pupils will be asked to take three coronavirus tests on site and one at home. They will then be sent home-testing kits to do twice-weekly.

Asked whether it should be a case of “no test, no school”, Gibb told LBC radio:

No, we want to make sure it is not compulsory in that sense, and they will need the permission of the parents.

In all these things, it is a balance of risk and just having anybody tested, frankly, and identifying asymptomatic cases is a bonus in terms of minimising the risk.

He said he hopes the vast majority of students will volunteer to use the lateral flow tests.

Primary schools

Primary school children will not need to take a rapid coronavirus test when they return to class.

On face coverings, Gibb told LBC:

It is more challenging to teach where you have masks on the children and on the teachers, but we have a new variant of this virus which is far more transmissible than the previous variant.

Asked on BBC Breakfast whether secondary school pupils will have to wear face coverings, he said:

We are saying it is not mandatory for schools to have masks in classrooms but it is highly recommended because we want to do everything we can to reduce the risk of transmission in the school.


His comments come after the National Deaf Children’s Society warned that the government’s recommendation for face coverings to be worn could have a “devastating” effect on youngsters with hearing difficulties.

The Department for Education (DfE) has said teachers should continue to be sensitive to the additional needs of their students, such as deafness, in deciding whether it’s appropriate to wear a face covering.

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  • Show Comments
    1. A dire mess, but I feel relieved for some teenagers that if they are forced to attend school and the consequences are on their parents there is the option to not wear a mask. I hear enough adults talking about dermatological problems and scarring from it that has worsened since the mask wearing, and I remember what school was like having that tie stuck on for seven hours along with the appalling heating. Extended mask wearing must be driving some people cranky. It does matter – enough kids will be developing eating disorders and other problems like this that may last a lifetime as result of a culture of poor mental health literacy and so many pychotic ideas having been normalised in the west for decades before the pandemic could comlicate things further. It’s crazy that the schools are going back, and saddening to hear parents where I live just sounding relieved and deferential to a government they still bizarrely trust, but I’m glad within the mess of policy there is some freedom even if a by-product the wrong reasons.

      I have recently been sawing a plastic that has quite a stink to it when sawn. This wasn’t abated the second time, when I used a mask of the kind many of us have been using in the supermarkets at least. I live alone, spend all my time alone and am not in work, and glad of this making me low risk to myself and others, I’m now only wearing a mask in shops for a quiet life, because they are obviously totally useless.

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