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Masks in schools latest: Government set to drop face coverings at desks

Face coverings in classrooms could be a thing of the past.

Scientists are poised to advise that children will not have to wear face masks at their desks in the new term.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned last week that some Covid-19 restrictions in schools could continue into the winter.

But now, the P&J has seen draft guidance that says the requirement to wear face coverings in classrooms will be removed.

The news has been welcomed by some. However, Scotland’s biggest teaching union wants more pupils to be vaccinated before the change is made.

The draft guidance was put together after a meeting of the Scottish Government’s advisor on Covid-19 issues related to young people last week

It states youngsters will not have to wear masks at their desks when they return to classes after the October holidays.

It is understood an announcement on the change could be made on Wednesday.

Face masks in schools: When is the change?

Schools in Aberdeen, Highland and Moray return on October 25 and it is November 1 in Aberdeenshire.

The advisory subgroup on education and children’s issues met last week to discuss coronavirus safety measures.

It is made up of 14 experts from a range of different fields. 

Draft guidance produced following the meeting said that face masks for pupils and staff will not be required in classrooms.

Teachers and pupils at Kemnay Academy wearing masks.

But face masks in schools must continue to be worn in communal areas and during events like school assemblies.

The document said: “Learners in secondary schools will no longer be required to wear face coverings in class, although they will still be required in communal areas.

“Staff should continue to wear face coverings in class if they cannot distance from each other or learners.  As previously, learners and staff may still choose to wear face coverings in school.”

Other protection measures – one-way systems, staggered lunchtimes and starts – could also be scrapped.

Parents evenings to return

The document also reveals that in-person parent evenings will be allowed to resume albeit with safety measures in place

It said: “In-person parents’ evenings can now also take place, subject to appropriate risk assessment and suitable safety arrangements.”

There would have to be one metre distancing between parents and teachers during the evening and face coverings would be required.

Schools would also have to assess the “risks and benefits involved in holding an in-person parents’ evening.”

Teaching union wants more pupils jabbed

Scotland’s biggest teaching union, the EIS, pointed out infection levels are still high in schools and caution is needed.

A spokeswoman said: “Any proposal to remove pupil face coverings whilst they are seated, should be linked to a significant increase in the vaccination uptake among secondary pupils, which is progressing but still in the early stages.

“Somewhat ironically, parts of England are looking to introduce face coverings, in the face of spiralling increases in pupil infection levels.

“The EIS has a strong view that a significant change such as this should not be announced during a school break.”

SSTA general secretary Seamus Searson.

The Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) believes Covid-19 safety precautions should stay in place into the winter.

SSTA general secretary Seamus Searson said: “All existing mitigations must be kept in place. Teachers do not have the option to remove themselves from a classroom if they feel unsafe.

“We need a national message without any relaxations in any area as it will only cause confusion.

“The last thing schools need is confusion.”

Jo Bisset from UFT Scotland.

Face masks in schools: Campaigners happy

Jo Bisset, organiser for UFTScotland, said children not having to wear face masks in schools was “great news”.

Ms Bisset said: “Enforced mask-wearing made life extremely difficult for many children, particularly those with disabilities and youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“We’re glad the Scottish Government has listened to the concerns of parents and come to this decision.”

What do officials say today?

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The government’s decision to ease school mitigations is informed by the views of a number of stakeholders.”

The spokesman said it was “vital” the views of the Covid Education Recovery Group, were considered.

The spokeswoman added: “The cabinet secretary will consider this advice and intends to make an announcement with further updates on school safety mitigations, as soon as possible – as already set out by the first minister.”

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