Schools have opened to all pupils after lockdown, with mask-wearing in class being one of the key areas of debate and concern.
Here are the latest updates on masks in schools, as reported by Tes.
A snap poll of headteachers today suggested that a majority of secondary school students are wearing face masks – but that, of course, means a minority are not.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, which carried out the poll, said some students and parents were not supporting schools over the “thorny issue” of face coverings.
However, children’s minister Vicky Ford this morning explained the reason why face masks are not being made mandatory in secondary school classrooms – because some students will be “very anxious and nervous" about wearing them.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ms Ford said mask-wearing was “strongly encouraged” rather than mandatory.
The NEU teaching union accused ministers of a lack of commitment in not ensuring that face masks are worn in secondary classrooms
Joint general secretary Mary Bousted said all pupils should wear masks unless there was a medical reason, and that ministers shouldn’t be “equivocating” about the matter, especially as government guidelines say mask-wearing in secondary schools will reduce virus transmission.
And teachers themselves have been reminded of the importance of wearing masks, including in the staffroom - where fellow teachers apparently present a greater risk of spreading Covid than pupils.
Professor Calum Semple, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said advice for teachers “is going to be wearing face masks, being really careful in the common room – their colleagues are more of a risk to them than the children".
MPs on the House of Commons' Education Select Committee heard how headteachers were being put in a ‘difficult position’ in imposing rules on facemasks which are only guidance and not the law.
Committee member David Johnston OBE, MP for Wantage & Didcot, in Oxfordshire said: "Some parents are issuing what they’re calling a 'notice liability' about face masks and asking teachers not to have children wear those face masks.
“The point was made by the heads that - because it’s guidance rather than statutory - when a headteacher decides that actually they do need them [face masks] based on the DfE’s guidance, they’re getting quite challenging and, some might say, threatening letters from some parents who disagree with the stance [and are] ordering them to desist.”