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Masks to be encouraged but not required in schools after Easter holidays

Councils can't require face coverings in schools once Government guidance changes next week.
Councils can't require face coverings in schools once Government guidance changes next week.

Most councils in the north and north-east plan to continue encouraging students and staff to wear face coverings, even though government requirements are due to expire next week.

When students left for the Easter holidays, masks were still required in communal spaces in secondary schools. On April 18, the Scottish Government plans to lift requirements for face coverings in most public places – including schools.

Despite statements from councils that secondary students and staff should continue to wear face coverings in certain situations, masks won’t be mandatory.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said councils can’t choose to require masks in schools locally.

But, with recent high case rates nationally, many councils across the north and north-east said they will continue to encourage face coverings as an optional protective measure in schools.

What are the rule changes?

When students and staff return from the Easter holidays on April 18, Covid rules in public spaces will have changed. By then, the government will have lifted requirements for face coverings in most public places. 

And according to a Scottish Government spokeswoman, that means no more face masks in schools in Scotland.

“From the 18th April face coverings will no longer be a legal requirement in any setting. That includes schools.

“The use of face coverings in communal areas for staff and secondary school pupils will remain as guidance only. This is not mandatory and is consistent with other settings, including shops and public transport.

“This is national guidance, and will apply across all schools in Scotland. It will not be for local authorities to decide.”

Guidance v Requirement

A spokeswoman for Highland Council said that schools will continue to follow the most recent Scottish Government guidance.

“Pupils and staff in schools are no longer required to wear face coverings in classrooms. However, schools and the Council fully support any young person or staff member who wishes to continue to do so.

“Face coverings should continue to be worn by all adults and those over the age of 12 in indoor communal areas as per national guidance.”

She said that the guidance is not the same as a legal requirement. Still, the council will continue to encourage and support anyone who wants to keep wearing a face covering.

Masks expected, but not required

A spokeswoman for Argyll & Bute Council said that students and staff will be “expected to wear face coverings when moving about the schools or in communal areas when they return (from Easter holidays).”

But she said that expectation will be only advisory, and not mandatory.

A Moray Council spokesman said that schools will no longer require face coverings. But they will support anyone who wishes to continue wearing one.

In Aberdeenshire, a council spokesman said that staff and students should view face coverings as an “optional extra measure” in communal spaces.

No punishments for not wearing a mask

Most councils said that schools will still encourage face coverings in communal spaces.

In Orkney and Shetland, councils said they won’t punish students for not wearing a mask.

A spokeswoman for Orkney Islands Council said that local case rates mean masks might still be a good choice.

“Given Orkney’s unfortunate position at the top of the Covid transmission rate table in recent times, we would still advise the wearing of face masks within communal areas of schools – however, this is now personal choice and optional.

“There will be no ‘punishment’ for staff and students who opt not to wear a face covering from 18 April, in the same way that anyone who wishes to wear a face mask should continue to do so.”

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