The wearing of face masks in secondary school classrooms will no longer be a requirement for either students or staff from next Monday, the prime minister has announced.
Despite opposition from unions and scientists, who have called for masks to remain in schools until at least 21 June, Boris Johnson said today that students will also "no longer" need to wear their face coverings in corridors or communal areas.
The Department for Education said the change would "improve interaction between teachers and students, ensuring the clearest possible communication to support learning".
However, the DfE clarified that staff should continue to use masks in communal areas such as the staffroom, where social distancing may not be possible.
Speaking at today's Downing Street press briefing, Mr Johnson said: "We will no longer require face coverings in classrooms, or for students in communal areas in secondary schools and colleges."
The DfE added: "All other protective measures such as ventilation and social distancing where possible will remain in place and regular rapid testing will continue to help find and isolate asymptomatic cases when they do occur.
"Staff are not required to wear face coverings in the classroom but should continue to wear them in communal areas such as the staffroom, where social distancing may not be possible."
Secondary students have been asked to wear masks in classrooms as well as in corridors and communal spaces ever since schools returned on 8 March.
Pupils will no longer be advised to wear face coverings in schools and colleges from 17 May, as infection rates decrease and the vaccination roll-out covers most adults.— Gavin Williamson (@GavinWilliamson) May 10, 2021
All other protective measures such as 'bubbles', extra hygiene & social distancing will remain in place.
Staff in secondary schools and colleges have also been advised to wear face coverings in all areas, including classrooms, where social distancing cannot be maintained.
Primary pupils have been exempt from having to wear face masks throughout the pandemic.