SECONDARY pupils will have to wear masks in the classroom when schools reopen on March 8, it was announced today.
Older children will be asked to wear face coverings at their desks as well as in corridors until the end of term under the PM’s roadmap to reopen the country.
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Ministers have been looking to tighten up mask rules in schools to help build up parents’ confidence that they’re safe.
Previously the use of face coverings has been left to the discretion of head teachers, but they are now set to be made compulsory.
The roadmap released today states: “The Government recommends that the use of face coverings in Higher Education, Further Education and secondary schools is extended for a limited period to all indoor environments – including classrooms – unless 2m social distancing can be maintained.
“Face coverings are now also recommended in early years and primary schools for staff and adult visitors in situations where social distancing between adults is not possible, for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas.
“All children will once again be expected to attend school, as they were in the autumn term.”
But speaking in a press conference tonight, Boris Johnson today confirmed the measures would only be in place until the end of term.
It comes after ministers confirmed schools will reopen in England to all kids on March 8.
Schools are set to return from March 8 for all pupils in all year groups in England – rather than a staggered approach.
The PM had vowed to give at least two weeks’ notice to parents and teachers.
There may be a few days leeway in order to test everyone as they return to the classrooms.
Children in Scotland and Wales started to go back today.
Younger kids are returning in small numbers, before more join them in the next few weeks.
Children in primaries one to three are due back in Scottish schools from along with some senior secondary pupils who need to do practical work for qualifications.
All children under school age in early learning and childcare are also returning.
Senior secondary pupils will need to stick to two-metre social distancing within schools and on school buses, while Covid-19 testing will be made available to them and teachers.
Ministers say that by March 8, the most vulnerable will have been vaccinated and that protection would have kicked in.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi confirmed this morning it would be “all schools”.
He said: “Children are our priority.
“I think being out of education has been hugely difficult for children and I think it’s right that we work together.
“Now, as we see the vaccine deployment programme continue at pace, to be able to reopen schools on their demand.
“I think it’s right that we focus our efforts on schools to reopen by the eighth of March.”
The Prime Minister is preparing a major school safety campaign this week to convince parents children are safe, despite nine teaching unions saying they want a staggered return.
The PM faces huge opposition from unions over his plan, who have warned of a huge spike in cases if all kids go back at once.
But a fresh Labour civil war exploded once again after Sir Keir Starmer threw his weight behind a “big bang” opening – to the fury of left-wingers in his party.
And they were backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury who said he was “absolutely sure” the government was right to prioritise the reopening of schools, saying: “That is probably the most urgent thing, it’s been the most urgent thing right the way through.”
It came as it emerged pupils will be given extra classes during the summer holidays to help them catch up with lessons missed during the pandemic.
Speaking on Sunday morning, Sir Keir told Sky News: “Ideally, I’d like to see all schools back open on 8th March and all children back in school on March 8.
“I’ve been worried through the pandemic, a number of people have, about the impact that being out of school has on particularly vulnerable children and the attainment gap is getting bigger, so ideally March 8.
“We’ll have to see obviously where the data is, see where the science is, but that’s what we should be working towards.
“If that means more testing, if that means Nightingale classrooms, if it means other measures, let’s do that because I want to get our kids back into school.
But that flew in the face of a joint statement from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the NAHT school leaders’ union, the National Education Union (NEU), the NASUWT teachers’ union, the National Governance Association (NGA), the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA) and Labour-affiliated unions Unison, Unite and GMB.
They all said school return should be staggered by year group and called Mr Johnson’s plan “reckless”.
Unison, Unite and GMB are also major donors to the Labour party.
And former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell also took to the airwaves on Sunday morning to demand that Labour “listen to the unions.”