Everything you need to know about mandatory face masks in West Yorkshire schools

The government has announced that children in parts of West Yorkshire will need to wear a face mask in schools.

Wednesday, 26th August 2020, 8:12 am
Updated Wednesday, 26th August 2020, 9:06 am

Secondary school pupils will have to wear masks in areas of England where lockdown restrictions have been imposed.

In West Yorkshire, lockdown measures are currently in place in Kirklees, Calderdale and Bradford.

-> West Yorkshire lockdown: new rules and guidance for Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees explainedEducation Secretary Gavin Williamson said the change followed updated advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) saying children aged over 12 should wear masks.

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Secondary school pupils will have to wear masks in areas of England where lockdown restrictions have been imposed.

Face coverings will have to be worn in communal areas of schools in areas where local lockdowns have been introduced, and headteachers will have the option to ask pupils to wear them elsewhere in the country.

Here is everything you need to know:

What is the new guidance?

The World Health Organisation published a statement on 21 August advising that “children aged 12 and over should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults, in particular when they cannot guarantee at least a 1-metre distance from others and there is widespread transmission in the area.”

The government has chosen to follow this guidance for areas that are under stricter lockdown measures.

However, it has not made it mandatory for schools outside of these areas.

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson said: "Our priority is to get children back to school safely. At each stage we have listened to the latest medical and scientific advice.

"We have therefore decided to follow the World Health Organisation’s new advice. In local lockdown areas children in year 7 and above should wear face coverings in communal spaces.

"Outside of local lockdown areas face coverings won’t be required in schools, though schools will have the flexibility to introduce measures if they believe it is right in their specific circumstances."

Which areas in West Yorkshire are affected?

As of Wednesday, August 26, Kirklees, Calderdale and Bradford are under lockdown measures.

This means they cannot mix with other households in the home or in other social venues.

Will pupils in non-lockdown areas such as Leeds and Wakefield need to wear a mask?

As of Wednesday, August 26, pupils in Leeds and Wakefield will not need to wear a mask because they are not in a lockdown area.

However, they could be asked to wear a mask by their school.

This is because the government is leaving the decision to wear masks up to the "discretion" of individual schools.

The guidance says: "Nationwide, the government is not recommending face coverings are necessary in education settings generally because a system of control, applicable to all education environments, provides additional mitigating measures.

"Schools and colleges will have the discretion to require face coverings in communal areas where social distancing cannot be safely managed, if they believe that it is right in their particular circumstances."

What if my child lives in a non-lockdown area but goes to school in a lockdown area?

They will need to wear a mask.

Where in school will they need to wear a mask?

In communal areas such as hallways and dining rooms.

Children will also need to wear masks on school buses as masks are mandatory on public transport.

Do they need to wear them in the classroom?

No, pupils will not need to wear them in the classroom, even when social distancing is not possible, according to the government advice.

The government guidance says: "On the basis of current evidence, in light of the mitigating measures education settings are taking, and the negative impact on communication, face coverings will not generally be necessary in the classroom even where social distancing is not possible.

"There is greater use of the system of controls for minimising risk, including through keeping in small and consistent groups or bubbles, and greater scope for physical distancing by staff within classrooms.

"Face coverings can have a negative impact on learning and teaching and so their use in the classroom should be avoided."

What age group needs to wear a mask?

Children in secondary school will need to wear a mask.

The guidance is for children aged 12 upwards to wear a mask which covers Year 7 students up to college and sixth form students.

There is no guidance for primary school students to wear a mask.

When will wearing masks become mandatory?

It will become mandatory from September 1.

What if I don't have a mask?

Where a student or staff member is struggling to access a mask, or if it soiled or unsafe, the guidance says that schools should take steps to have a “small contingency supply” available, adding no-one should excluded on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering.

Is anyone exempt from wearing a mask?

Exemptions to the new measures include those who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability, or if a person is speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate.