Coronavirus: Scottish high schools to introduce new face covering rules

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The use of face coverings in corridors and communal areas of secondary schools is set to be introduced in Scotland.

The government is in the "final stages" of consultations with teachers and councils about having pupils wear face coverings while moving between classes.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was acting in response to new guidance from the World Health Organization.

Ministers are also considering whether to make masks mandatory on school transport – but not inside classrooms.

The use of face coverings in schools is currently voluntary, although some schools have started advising staff and pupils to wear them to help combat the spread of Covid-19.

Young people returned to Scotland's schools earlier in August with no requirements for physical distancing between younger pupils, and no rules around face coverings.

However, over the weekend the World Health Organization (WHO) issued fresh guidance saying children over the age of 12 should wear masks.

At her daily coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon said Education Secretary John Swinney was "in the final stages of consulting teachers and local authorities on a recommendation for the use of face coverings by staff and pupils in secondary schools when moving around corridors and communal areas".

She said there was more mixing between different groups of children in these areas, and that there was less scope for effective ventilation.

People are also thought to be more likely to raise their voices in crowded places, increasing the risk of aerosol transmission of the virus.

Ms Sturgeon said the government's scientific advisers were also considering whether face coverings should be made mandatory on school transport.

However, she said they were "not currently consulting on any proposal" to have pupils wear masks in class, saying: "There is greater scope for physical distancing in classrooms and face coverings are more likely to interfere with teaching and learning."

She added: "The best way to ensure schools can stay open safely is for all of us to play our part in keeping transmission rates in the community as low as possible."

Some schools in Edinburgh, Inverness and Grantown on Spey have written to parents recommending pupils wear masks due to concerns about overcrowding as they move between lessons.

The first minister said she expected the Scotland-wide move would be confirmed "over the next couple of days", and would constitute a change to guidance which schools would be expected to follow.

She said: "We are not talking about a mandatory system in the sense of there being penalties and enforcement in schools. I get the sense that schools – while I accept there will be a mixture of opinion around it – are themselves looking to follow this kind of approach.

"We will set out the detail when we get to the point of finalising the recommendation."

Under the existing guidance no-one is required to wear face coverings in school, apart from staff who have close personal contact with a pupil for an extended period of time. However, anyone who wants to wear one is allowed to do so.

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