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England follows Scotland with changed guidance over masks for pupils

Owen Humphreys

By Alexander Britton, PA

The reversal of guidance meaning secondary school pupils will have to wear masks in parts of England follows similar directions issued north of the border.

UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the change followed updated advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) saying children aged over 12 should wear masks.

Face coverings will have to be worn in communal areas of schools in areas where local lockdowns have been introduced, and headteachers will have the option to ask pupils to wear them elsewhere in the country.

The new guidance – which also said masks will not be needed in classrooms – followed pressure from teaching unions and Scotland’s announcement along similar lines.

There, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said face coverings would be obligatory from August 31 in corridors and on school transport, adding: “There is increasing evidence that face coverings can provide some protection for the wearer as well as those around them.

“We also know that some pupils have found it very difficult to physically distance when moving around school, which could increase the risk of transmission of the virus. And on school transport, as on public transport, there can be mixing between different age groups.”

Also in the sphere of education, Scotland’s move to use teachers’ estimates on exam results for those who were downgraded by the moderation process was rejected, then adopted, by the UK Government.

Mr Swinney said school exam results downgraded by the moderation process will revert to the grades estimated by pupils’ teachers.

Mr Williamson told The Times there would be no U-turn on the grading system, claiming that moving to the Scottish model would lead to “rampant grade inflation” on August 15.

But two days later, Mr Williamson back-tracked to say results estimated by teachers could be used after mounting anger over the downgrading of about 40% of A-level grades by exams regulator Ofqual over a controversial algorithm.

Westminster also followed Holyrood on guidance for wearing masks in shops.

Nicola Sturgeon announced the new rule on July 2 and it came into force on July 10, saying: “I encourage people to see wearing a face covering for the foreseeable future when you go to the shops to become as automatic as putting a seatbelt on is in a car already.”

England was brought into line with Scotland on July 24, with the new regulations coming after the UK Government began urging people to wear face coverings in confined spaces in early May.

Masks were made compulsory on public transport in England from mid-June.

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