As schools reopen and government advice changes, what exactly are the rules on face coverings in the UK’s schools?

What is the situation in Scotland?

Face coverings should be worn by staff and pupils when moving around secondary schools from 31 August.

Scotland’s education secretary John Swinney said the rule will apply on school transport for primary school pupils aged five and above, and all those at secondary school in communal areas, but not in classrooms.

What about England?

Previously, Public Health England did not recommend face coverings in schools and the Department for Education said pupils and staff were mixing in consistent groups, so masks were not necessary.

But on Tuesday evening, the DfE decided face coverings would be mandatory in communal areas of schools where social distancing was difficult. This is only for secondary schools in regions where lockdowns are in place due to higher coronavirus transmission. As of Tuesday evening, these areas were Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire, Leicester, Luton and Northampton.

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The rules do not include classrooms and it does not affect primary school pupils. In parts of the country that do not have higher transmission, headteachers will be left to decide whether face coverings are needed.

What about Wales and Northern Ireland?

A decision will be made in Wales on Wednesday, but current guidance says masks are not recommended.

In Northern Ireland, post-primary pupils will be asked to wear face coverings in communal areas.

Will the advice change?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that the government will “look at the changing medical evidence as we go on”.

He added: “If we need to change the advice then of course we will.”

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