ll secondary school pupils and teachers must wear face coverings in communal areas and corridors from Thursday, according to new Government advice.
The advice also says that staff members who are “clinically extremely vulnerable” should avoid coming into school.
The guidance says: “In schools where pupils in year 7 and above are educated, face coverings should be worn by adults and pupils when moving around the premises, outside of classrooms, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing cannot easily be maintained.”
It adds that clinically extremely vulnerable staff and pupils should not come into school or college, and that older children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities may be exempt from wearing the masks.
The guidance also notes that sports competitions between different schools should not take place, in line with the wider restrictions on grassroots sport.
But it adds: “Schools are able to work with external coaches, clubs and organisations for curricular activities where they are satisfied that it is safe to do so.”
Masks were already required for secondary school pupils within areas under Tier 2 and Tier 3 restrictions in England. However, they had not been required in areas under Tier 1.
Headteachers criticised the timing of the announcement.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Schools and colleges have been waiting for this guidance since the Prime Minister’s announcement on Saturday, and it is frustrating that it has taken so long to arrive given that they now have to digest and implement these measures in a short timeframe.”
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, called the timing “ridiculous”.
“The Government’s last-minute publication of this guidance does not help schools in this matter one bit”, he said.
“Frankly, it is ridiculous that this new guidance has landed on school leaders’ desks less than 24 hours before the start of the national lockdown.”
He added that schools may struggle with staffing if clinically extremely vulnerable may struggle to stay open.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson defended the measures.
“We must put the interests of our children and young people first, especially when the benefits of being in the classroom are clear.”
He added: “Education is a national priority and we cannot allow it to be disrupted again.”