Secondary school pupils may need masks between classes

Some schools now require pupils to cover their faces in corridors and communal areas.

Secondary school pupils may soon have to wear masks between classes.

Education secretary John Swinney is in the final stages of a consultation, after new guidance was issued by the World Health Organisation.

A number of coronavirus cases have cropped up among pupils and school staff in Scotland, some linked to local Covid-19 clusters.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly stressed these cases are not the result of transmission of the virus within schools but within the wider community.

A number of high schools have now asked pupils to wear masks in corridors and communal areas, however current Scottish Government guidance doesn’t require them.

Sturgeon said: “We’re consulting on this specific measure because, firstly, mixing between different groups is more likely in corridors and communal areas – increasing the potential for transmission.

“Secondly, crowding and close contact in these areas is more likely and voices could be raised, resulting in greater potential for creating aerosol transmission.

“Finally, there’s also less scope for ventilation in these areas.”

The First Minister said decisions were yet to be made on whether the guidance would be extended to school transport, but there are currently no plans for enforced masks in class.

Scotland’s largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), welcomed the consultation on the issue but stressed it believes social distancing is the most important factor.

The union is calling for thousands more teachers to be recruited to enable smaller class sizes.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “The EIS continues to believe that effective physical distancing is the best means of reducing the risk of Covid-19 spread in schools.

“We are continuing to press the Scottish Government for more staff and smaller classes to achieve this.

“We note the WHO advice on face coverings for those aged 12 and over, where one-metre distancing cannot be maintained.

“In situations where physical distancing is difficult, for example in busy corridors when pupils are moving between classes, use of face coverings becomes more important and we welcome the current Scottish Government consultation on this issue.”

Grantown Grammar School on Spey and Milburn Academy in Inverness are the latest to require face coverings following the full-time return of students earlier this month.

James Gillespie’s in Edinburgh and Denny High School in Falkirk are also encouraging pupils to cover their faces between classes.

At the weekend, the WHO issued fresh advice that children over the age of 12 should wear masks in the same way adults do.

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