Back to college: Masks to be worn in classrooms

With confirmation that schools and colleges are to reopen fully from 8 March, new guidance on face masks has been issued

Julia Belgutay & Kate Parker

Colleges reopening: Staff and students will now be wearing face masks in the classroom

College staff and students will be "advised" to wear face coverings in classrooms where social distancing cannot be maintained, the government has announced. 

Today, prime minister Boris Johnson set out his roadmap for England's move out of lockdown, announcing that schools and colleges would open from 8 March.

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The Department for Education further announced that all students would take three coronavirus tests in college in the first fortnight back, with another test to be done at home. Staff will be given two tests per week to carry out at home.

Colleges reopening: Face masks 'in areas where distancing can't be maintained'

In a statement, the DfE also said: "Staff and students in secondary schools and colleges are advised to wear face coverings in all areas, including classrooms, where social distancing cannot be maintained, as a temporary extra measure."

Prior to the current lockdown, in which colleges closed to most students, those in colleges were only required to wear face coverings in public areas of the college. 

In its guidance published today, the DfE says the requirement to wear face coverings will be "introduced for a limited time until Easter".

The guidance says: "We recommend that face coverings should be worn by adults and students when moving around the premises, in corridors and communal areas and in classrooms or workshops where social distancing cannot easily be maintained, except where exemptions apply. Face coverings do not need to be worn by students when outdoors on the premises."

It adds: "Some FE courses, such as vocational training, healthcare-related courses and the performing arts may pose particular risks of aerosol, droplet and surface transmission and may therefore warrant increased consideration; for example, face coverings, ventilation or cleaning in accordance with guidance issued for the relevant professional working arrangements." 

On face shields and visors, the guidance says: "Face visors or shields should not routinely be worn as an alternative to face coverings. They may protect against droplet spread in specific circumstances but are unlikely to be effective in preventing aerosol transmission. In an education setting environment, they are unlikely to offer appropriate protection to the wearer and should only be used after carrying out a risk assessment for the specific situation." 

The guidance tells FE providers to have a small number of face coverings available for those who are struggling to access one, are unable to use theirs as it has become damp, soiled or unsafe, or have forgotten their face covering.

It says no student should be denied education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering. 

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Julia Belgutay & Kate Parker

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