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Responding to the updated Government guidance on the use of face masks in schools, Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT – The Teachers’ Union, said:

“The NASUWT has been pressing the Government to address the contradiction between its general advice requiring the use of face masks and face coverings in many public places and its position on their use in schools.

“It is deeply regrettable that the Government has failed to heed concerns until the last possible moment.

“The latest announcement on face coverings raises serious questions about whether the Government is seriously following the scientific advice or is simply prioritising political expediency in order to meet the Prime Minister’s wish to ensure that every school reopens fully at the start of term come what may.

“This latest Government U-turn will raise questions about the statement issued by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers last Sunday that there is a low risk of Coronavirus transmission in schools.

“Face masks and visors can help in the battle against Coronavirus if used correctly, but they are not a substitute for stringent social distancing, good hand hygiene and enhanced cleaning of surfaces by appropriately trained staff.

“As many schools continue to work hard to prepare for the new term, many headteachers and teachers have continued to raise concerns about the practical difficulties they are experiencing in ensuring effective social distancing arrangements in classrooms and throughout their schools. It is vital for the safety of staff, pupils and the wider community that the Government listens to and acts on those concerns.

“Where schools are unable to ensure effective social distancing, it is clear that other effective measures will be needed to in order to protect public health.

“Where there is a heightened risk of virus transmission in a school or local area, priority has to be given to reducing social contact and ensuring stringent social distancing in classrooms as well as in communal areas.

“The Government must also make clear that where a child or adult has symptoms of Coronavirus, wearing a face mask is not the answer and they must stay at home.”

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