Teachers have warned Boris Johnson that his face masks create a risk of U-turn in schools amid fears that students will harass each other for their choice of cover.
The government announced yesterday evening that face masks would be mandatory in the common areas of secondary schools in parts of England that are subject to local lockdowns.
In the meantime, the decision as to whether masks should be worn in schools outside the restricted area is left to the individual headmasters.
The change in policy came after days of Minister and Downing Street insisting there were no plans to change guidelines in England as masks were not required if all other hygiene measures were followed.
But Mr Johnson's hand seemed forced after Nicola Sturgeon said that secondary school students in Scotland must wear a mask between lessons.
The time of the U-turn has sparked trouble as schools in England are slated to reopen next week, while teachers have warned that wearing masks could cause a number of problems.
They cited concerns about increased bullying, students wearing dirty reused masks, and the difficulty of challenging bad behavior in corridors as it may be unclear which children are responsible.
The change of course in the eleventh hour followed new advice from the World Health Organization over the weekend.
Tory MPs were angry about handling the problem with a high-profile figure who called the situation "an utter show" and said it was "incomprehensible" that the decision had not been made sooner.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson defended the move this morning when he said student safety was "absolutely critical".
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said last night that face covering will be mandatory in common areas of schools affected by local lockdowns. Pictured Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his visit to Appledore Shipyard in Devon on Tuesday
Mr Williamson today defended the government's decision to reverse the issue of wearing face masks in secondary schools amid growing Tory anger
What are the rules for face masks in UK schools?
How is the situation in England?
High school students and staff in local restricted areas must wear face masks in common areas.
This does not apply to classrooms and does not apply to elementary school age students.
In all other parts of the country, it is up to school principals to decide whether masks are required.
Which parts of the country are subject to the mandatory face mask rule?
Any part of the country that is defined as an area of national government intervention.
As of Tuesday evening, there were local restrictions in the Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire, Leicester, Luton and Northampton areas.
What are the rules in Scotland?
The Scottish Government announced yesterday that from August 31st, staff and students should wear face covers when moving around secondary schools. The rules also apply to school transport for primary school students aged five and over.
What about Wales and Northern Ireland?
Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething said yesterday that a decision on school children wearing face covers is likely to be made today, but current guidance says masks are not recommended.
In Northern Ireland, after elementary school students are asked to wear face covers in corridors and other common areas, Stormont Education Minister Peter Weir said.
The updated guidelines for schools state that from September 1, staff and students in restricted areas should wear face covers between lessons and in common areas.
Should new local restrictions be introduced, schools must communicate the new regulations “quickly and clearly” to staff, parents and students.
It is said that schools and colleges in non-restricted areas may, at their own discretion, require facial covering if social distancing cannot be safely handled – for example, if the design of a school makes it difficult.
However, it is not necessary to wear masks in the classroom.
The decision to change the advice came after the WHO recommended that children over the age of 12 wear covers that make social distancing difficult. The rules should be based on whether there is widespread coronavirus transmission in the community.
Mr. Williamson told Sky News, “We always follow and listen to the best scientific and medical advice. Therefore, we do not recommend that face covering be mandatory in all schools across the country.
"The best scientific and medical advice is that it is not necessary."
He added, "We recognize the fact that there are certain areas of the country that have high or higher levels of coronavirus for which we are taking an extra precaution.
“When we look at school returns, the most important thing that told us the most is yes it is for scientific and medical advice and it is based on how we make sure all schools are as safe as possible. & # 39;
Mr Williamson said the government wants to create an environment where safety is paramount when schools return across England.
He said, “When we look to next week and the following week, when more and more schools are returning, we want to create an environment where safety is at the heart of everything we do.
"Because the safety of students, the safety of those who work in schools, is absolutely critical to all of us."
The Minister of Education added, “What we recommend to make the wearing of face covers compulsory in high school community areas is only in a very, very small number of areas of the country that are on-site closed.
“We recognize that there are additional concerns about transmission in these communities. But we also recognize how important it is for every child to come back. & # 39;
The face mask U-turn comes just days after Mr Williamson was asked to resign over his handling of the A-Level and GCSE results debacle.
Katherine Birbalsingh, director of Michaela Community School at Wembley, North West London, tweeted that "masks are chaos." Pictured on Monday, students at Bloomfield Collegiate School in Belfast were back in school for the first time since March
The announcement of the masks occurs at the latest in a series of U-turns by the government
The government has made its recent U-turn of the coronavirus pandemic and is now advising that high school students and staff in some areas of England wear face covers.
It's the latest in a long line of embarrassing political changes since February:
A-Level and GCSE results U-turn in England
Following criticism from students, school principals, and a backlash from Tory MPs, the government announced that A-Level and GCSE grades would be based on teacher assessments rather than a controversial algorithm developed by regulator Ofqual. Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Gavin Williamson had previously defended the "robust" system, which saw almost 40% of A-level grades cut based on teachers' predictions.
The government's coronavirus app plans for contact tracing have been dropped
On April 12, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced a new NHSX contact tracing app, promising it would be "critical" to preventing coronavirus transmission. It was tested on the Isle of Wight but dropped on June 18 when the government allowed Apple and Google to take over the project. A national introduction date has not yet been set.
Return to elementary school children
In early May, Williamson declared the government's ambition that all elementary school-age children in England would be in school for at least four weeks before summer. But on June 9, he said there was "no choice" but to ditch those plans amid fears the two-meter rule of social distancing would make a full return impossible.
Coronavirus test target
On April 2, Mr. Hancock set a goal of having 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of the month. At the daily government briefing on May 1, Hancock said the test numbers had reached 122,347 on April 30. However, the numbers included the number of home tests sent at home (27,497) as well as the number of tests sent to satellite websites (12,872). The number of tests actually processed has been suggested to be closer to 81,978 – just short of the government's target.
NHS surcharge for foreign health and care workers
On May 21, the Prime Minister stood by the fee charged by foreign health workers for using the NHS. However, just hours later, due to increasing pressure from older Tories, it was announced that foreign health and care workers would be exempted from the regulation.
Voucher for school meals
English footballer Marcus Rashford has been credited with playing a key role in forcing the government to reverse its decision not to extend the children's grocery voucher program to the summer holidays. On June 16, Cabinet Secretary Grant Shapps said that free school meals are usually not extended into the summer period. A few hours later, No10 reversed his stance and confirmed that the program would indeed be extended.
Teachers have raised concerns about how the new rules work and what they will mean for students.
Katherine Birbalsingh, director of Michaela Community School at Wembley, North West London, tweeted that "masks are chaos."
"(Students) will pull on each other's masks, constantly repositioning their own masks, bullying each other for mask choices, etc.," she predicted.
“Add this to increase the chatter, because teachers cannot hold children accountable for speaking.
“Children will wear dirty, reused masks. They will share masks. They will spit on masks at each other and lick them for fun. & # 39;
Ian Noon of the National Deaf Children's Society said masks pose serious challenges for deaf students who need to read lips.
"For some, it may make little sense even to go to school or college if they can't understand their teachers and classmates," he said.
However, union leaders cautiously welcomed the revised guidelines after urging Mr Johnson to follow Mrs Sturgeon's lead.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School & College Leaders, told BBC Breakfast, “We now know that in a high risk area you must wear face covering when you are in high school.
“If you are not in a high risk area, it is at the discretion of your school or college.
"I think this kind of clarity that gives this flexibility is not welcomed by everyone, but I think it is welcomed by many of the school principals and other high-level leaders I represent."
The face mask u-turn is the latest in a long line of government missteps during the coronavirus pandemic, with Tory MPs increasingly angry with ministers.
A senior Tory MP told The Times, “It's an absolutely fucking show.
“It is incomprehensible why this was not done earlier. It's chaos after chaos, U-turn after U-turn. Parents and teachers will lose confidence in the party. & # 39;
Tory MP Marcus Fysh described the decision to require students to wear masks as "completely wrong".
He said: "The country should go back to normal and not deal with this scientifically illiterate man."
When Mr. Williamson announced the decision last night, he said, “Our priority is getting children back to school safely.
“We listened to the latest medical and scientific advice at every stage.
& # 39; We have therefore decided to follow the new advice from the World Health Organization. In local restricted areas, children aged seven and over should wear face covers in common areas.
“Outside of the local restricted areas, no coverage is required in schools, although schools have the flexibility to introduce measures if they feel it is appropriate in their specific circumstances.
"I hope these steps will give parents, students and teachers further security."
The Ministry of Education said the rules would also apply to colleges and sixth grade universities.
The volte face came hours after Scotland said secondary education would be given "mandatory guidance" that students should wear face coverings when moving around schools.
In the meantime the Welsh Government is carrying out a policy review.
Professor Russell Viner, a member of the government's scientific advisory group on emergencies, previously said: "There is very little evidence of the use of masks in schools." Pictured students from St Paul & # 39; s High School in Glasgow on August 12th
Joshua Lee disinfects tables at Queen & # 39; s Hill Elementary School in Costessey, near Norwich, as they prepare to reopen
When asked yesterday about a possible policy change, Mr Johnson had said, “If there are things we need to do to change the advice for medical reasons, of course we will.
"But as the chief medical officer and all of our scientific advisors have said, schools are safe."
Professor Russell Viner, a member of the government's scientific advisory group on emergencies, previously said: "There is very little evidence of the use of masks in schools."
He told BBC Newsnight, “I think it is clear to young children that this is not a good idea. Even for teenagers, we don't have the evidence that this is useful. & # 39;
Q&A: What does science actually say about face masks?
What does science say
Experts insist that there is no clear evidence that children should wear masks in school. This is partly because most schools have been closed for six months to prevent research. Previous studies suggest that masks might reduce the spread of flu and colds in older children. However, the disadvantages include extremely poor compliance, discomfort, difficulty breathing and overheating.
What does the World Health Organization say?
WHO says that those over 12 should follow the same mask guidelines as adults. However, it is emphasized that schools are “special frameworks” in which other factors need to be taken into account. The local infection rate and measures to enforce social distancing within the school should be taken into account. The WHO also warns of "the possible harm and adverse effects of wearing masks," saying they may create a false sense of security in adolescents and reduce other measures such as hand washing.
Do masks help?
Cotton masks reduce the risk of infection by 54 percent and paper masks by 39 percent. By introducing masks in common areas where it is difficult to keep your distance, they can reduce the spread. Research from Public Health England suggests that school transmission is rare, with teenagers being far more likely to get the virus at home. Only one in 10,000 schools experienced an outbreak when they reopened in June.
Could they be harmful?
They could increase the spread of the virus in schools by harboring the virus. Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, said, "Because (younger children) touch their face and they are constantly worried about the mask, it could actually spread the virus further." There are also concerns that masks could interfere with communication, especially for children with learning difficulties or hearing difficulties.
Why don't you wear them in elementary schools too?
Younger children are less likely to catch or transmit the virus and it is difficult to persuade a class of infants to wear a mask. WHO says children under five should not wear masks, and those six to eleven should wear masks depending on how risky the situation is; B. if they are sick or see elderly relatives.
What are other countries doing?
Some, including Denmark, the first EU country to reopen schools, do not require masks. In France, secondary school students wear them as long as they are within a meter of each other. In some federal states, masks are mandatory in municipal areas. In China, South Korea, Japan, and Vietnam, schools need them for almost all children. Donald Trump has announced that it will send 125 million reusable masks to U.S. schools in preparation for reopening.
The NEW School Rules for Class of Covid 2020: How To Avoid Contact Sports, Students Will Be In Age Group Bubbles And If Two Children Get Sick, They Will Be Sent Home ALL Year
School life will be very different when students return to school after six months – contact sports will be avoided, students will be kept in age group bubbles and the risk of everyone going home if two children get sick.
The UK's Chief Medical Officers all agree that it is safe for children to return, but school principals must take a number of precautions to prevent outbreaks and weed them out if they occur.
Boris Johnson has repeatedly expressed his determination to get students back to school in September, but a number of rows have marred trust between parents and students.
Last week the government was beaten up for overseeing an exam fiasco in England that left students with much lower grades than forecast before changes were rolled back.
Mr Johnson has also signaled that he could follow Nicola Sturgeon's example when it comes to making face masks mandatory in the classroom. After previously insisting that this would not happen, he said today that ministers would be dealing with "changing evidence."
The Ministry of Education has drawn up detailed return to school guidelines that have been published on its website.
It is still allowed to take the bus to school … but walking or cycling is preferred
Students using school buses are expected to stay in their bladders.
Those who normally use public transport can still do so, but cycling and walking are recommended.
Schools can introduce staggered start times so students can travel at quieter times.
The students are divided into small "bubbles", although the instructions from the Ministry of Education do not state their exact size
It must no longer be forbidden to stand in front of the headmaster's office and to carry out imprisonment
The students are divided into small "bubbles", although the instructions from the Ministry of Education do not state their exact size. MailOnline has asked a spokesman for a comment.
However, a school principal has suggested that these bubbles could consist of up to 150 students.
Therefore, students cannot stand in front of the headmaster's office unsupervised, or be held in detention or isolation for punishment.
A teacher told The Sun, “Social distancing rules mean the idea of detaining a child and teacher for an hour after school is not a novice.
"It's a change that students will cheer about – but it can lead to teachers pulling their hair out."
Break times will remain, but students will be divided into year groups – including separate toilets and common rooms
Pepe Di & # 39; Iasio of Wales High School in Rotherham, Sheffield told BBC Radio 4's Today program: “We keep each of our year groups separate so there are 350 students in each bubble. Each year group has its own social area. their own toilets. & # 39;
In all schools, everyone is expected to wash their hands regularly and always use handkerchiefs to stop sneezing and coughing.
Schools must also introduce "improved cleaning practices", although masks do not have to be worn. The kitchens continue to function normally, albeit with additional hygiene measures.
Gatherings or collective worship with more than one bubble are avoided.
Students wear school uniforms as usual, but are asked to bring only essentials, including lunch boxes, books, stationery and cell phones.
Breakfast or after-school clubs will continue, but excursions will be banned
Activities such as breakfast and after-school clubs are expected to continue normally.
Music lessons can also continue, but there are extra precautions when people "sing, sing, or play wind instruments" as this can spread Covid even when people are not sitting close together.
School principals can counteract this risk by having more social distance and reducing class size to no more than 15.
School trips in the UK and abroad are not recommended.
Meetings and hymns will be banned, but smaller bubble meetings will take place
The traditional morning meeting for the entire school will no longer take place due to fears of spreading Covid.
Students are held in bubbles of 50 or more, making the prospect of an entire school meeting impossible.
The singing and singing is also believed to encourage the spread of Covid and make the mass gatherings out of the question.
The Department of Education says contact sports should be avoided so football is out of the question
The end of rugby! Games and sports will continue as normal – but contact sports will be banned and equipment will be cleaned after use
Schools are expected to continue with team sports and physical education classes.
Students must be kept in their bladders and equipment cleaned after each use.
In a major change, however, the Ministry of Education says that contact sports "should be avoided", which means that sports like rugby can no longer be played as before.
What if there is an outbreak?
If schools have two or more confirmed cases within 14 days, or the overall absence of illness increases, it will be classified as an "outbreak" and the school must contact the local health team.
This could lead to a mobile test unit being dispatched to test the class of infected students, followed by their grade group and possibly even the entire school.
An outbreak can result in year-round or school sending home as a precaution.
However, the government says that "full school closure due to internal school incidents is generally not necessary and should only be considered on the recommendation of health protection teams".
Schools are expected to be able to offer "instant distance education" in the event of a local outbreak or a second national lockdown.
Do I have to send my child back?
Yes, from September onwards all students will have to return to school and parents face fines if they refuse.
This includes most of the children who were previously screened as this council was interrupted on August 1st.
However, students with coronavirus symptoms or close contact with someone showing them must self-isolate at home.
School trips under the official guidance of the Ministry of Education are not recommended
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