The mandatory use of face coverings within corridors and communal areas of Scottish secondary schools is set to be introduced
The government is reportedly in the “final stages” of consultations with teachers and councils about having students wear face coverings throughout Scottish schools while moving between classrooms.
The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, said that she was acting in response to new coronavirus guidance from the World Health Organisation.
Governments ministers are also considering whether to make masks mandatory on transport to and from school, but not inside classrooms.
The use of face masks and other face coverings in schools is voluntary as of now, although some schools have started advising teachers and students to wear them in order to help combat the spread of COVID-19.
This comes after thirteen to fourteen-year-olds were less anxious during the nation-wide COVID-19 lockdown than they had been in October of last year, according to a survey from the University of Bristol.
Young people returned to schools in Scotland earlier in August with no current requirements for physical distancing between younger students, and no rules around wearing face coverings.
However, over the weekend the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a new set of guidance surrounding the coronavirus saying that children over the age of 12 should be wearing face coverings.
At her daily coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon said Education Secretary John Swinney was “in the final stage of consulting teachers and local authorities for the use of face coverings in secondary schools when moving around corridors and communal areas”.
Ms Sturgeon said that the government’s scientific advisers were also considering whether or not face coverings should be made mandatory on transport to and from school.
However, she said they were “not currently consulting on any proposal” to have pupils wear masks in class, saying:
“There is greater scope for physical distancing in classrooms and [face coverings] are more likely to interfere with teaching and learning.”
This comes after the UK government has said that they are not considering making the wearing of face masks compulsory in offices and workplaces.
She added: “The best way to ensure schools can stay open safely is for all of us to play our part in keeping transmission rates in the community as low as possible.”
She said: “We are not talking about a mandatory system in the sense of there being penalties and enforcement in schools. I get the sense that schools – while I accept there will be a mixture of opinion around it – are themselves looking to follow this kind of approach.
“We will set out the detail when we get to the point of finalising the recommendation.”
However, she added that “where there are outbreaks there is an option for incident management teams to recommend more extensive use of face coverings for a period to protect public health”.
A recent survey of around 30,000 teachers by the EIS teaching union has found that 41% of them supported the mandatory wearing of face coverings by older students within classrooms at school.