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Masks to become compulsory in secondary schools

Students and staff in Bayside, Westside and Gibraltar College will be required to wear masks when circulating around the schools, the Department of Education has announced in its new mask-wearing policy, with older students also required to cover their faces even while in classrooms.

The new rules will be effective as from November 23, after guidance from Public Health Gibraltar led to the Department of Education reviewing its policy in regards to mask-wearing in schools.

The key changes in the mask-wearing policy will affect older students in secondary schools, with the Department of Education encouraging parents to back the changes.

“Parents are expected to support the implementation of all school / educational settings’ policies,” the Department of Education said in its new mask policy.

“We expect parents and carers to reinforce the school/educational settings’ high expectations regarding mask-wearing as set out below.”

“We expect parents and carers to support the actions of the school in regard to the implementation of this mask-wearing policy.”

The Department of Education directed any queries or concerns regarding the implementation of this policy should be made to the schools, adding that the schools collaborate actively with parents and carers, so that children and young people receive “consistent messages about the expectations regarding mask wearing at school and within the community.”

“We expect parents and carers to support their child’s learning, and to cooperate with the school/educational setting,” the policy said.

In the secondary sector, masks will be required to be worn by all staff and students when circulating around the school building or educational setting.

“This includes any podiums and entry staircases into the school grounds,” the policy said.

“It is compulsory for all individuals to wear a mask whilst they are in the corridors, stairwells, toilets and all circulation spaces within the school footprint.”

“In learning environments (such as ICT suites and the kitchens) where air conditioning units must be in operation, all individuals in the air conditioned zone must wear a mask throughout their time in this area.”

For students in Years 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, once they arrive at their classroom and sit at their desk or work station, masks can be removed for the duration of the period that they remain in this area.

The policy added that for these students, masks do not need to be worn in any lessons, unless these are in an airconditioned room.

“Masks do not need to be worn in PE, Music, Drama and Dance lessons even when students are moving more freely throughout the learning zone,” the policy said.

“Masks do not need to be worn when students are in their outdoor playgrounds for their break time or lunch time, and are in their social group bubble. In such situations where masks are not being worn, social distancing measures must be complied with.”

“Masks do not need to be worn when students who stay at school for lunch sit down at their table in their lunch zone.”

Different rules have been stipulated for different age ranges, with students in Years 12 and 13 required to wear a mask “throughout their time inside the school footprint.”

“Year 12 and 13 students must continue to wear a mask throughout lessons, no matter which learning zone of the building they are working in,” the policy said.

These students will be required to wear a mask throughout all activities, including examinations and this applies to all subjects, including PE, Music, Drama and Dance.

The policy added that for Year 12 and 13 students, masks need to be worn when they are in all circulation areas of the school, including the podium and entry staircase into the school grounds.

But masks do not need to be worn when students who stay at school for lunch sit down at their table in their lunch zone.

COLLEGE

All students at the College are required to wear a mask throughout their time inside the College buildings, including the main building, its Annexe and any off-site learning zones.

The policy has instructed that all students must continue to wear a mask throughout lessons, no matter which learning zone they are working in.

“Students will be required to wear a mask throughout all activities, including examinations.”

“Masks need to be worn when students are in all circulation areas of the College, this includes the podium and entry hill / staircase into the College grounds.”

“Masks do not need to be worn when students who stay at the College for lunch sit down at their table in their lunch zone.”

The Department of Education has outlined that any incident where a student is found not to be complying with mask-wearing rules will be “followed up on.”
STAFF

The Department of Education has advised staff to wear masks in classrooms, unless it will hinder their teaching.

“Once staff arrive at the classroom/learning zone for a lesson, masks can be removed if teachers feel that continuing to wear a mask throughout the lesson will hinder the efficacy of their teaching,” the policy said.

“If teachers can ensure their communication with students is not hindered, we advise that masks continue to be worn in classrooms/learning zones.”

When staff are not in classrooms teaching and arrive at their desk or work station, the Department has advised masks can be removed for the duration of the period that they remain in this area.

The policy also advises lunchtime staff who come into school to supervise children during the lunch hour to wear a mask throughout their time in the school setting.

“This applies to lunchtime staff in all HMGoG’s educational settings, including all Primary and Secondary schools and St Martin’s,” the policy said.

PRIMARY SCHOOLS

In primary schools, children and staff will not be required to wear masks, the Department of Education has advised.

In the primary school setting any child or staff member who would like to wear a mask can do so.

“We do not recommend that Nursery and Reception-aged children wear masks,” the policy said.

“This recommendation is based on the safety and overall interest of these children and their capacity to appropriately use a mask with minimal assistance.”

“We do not recommend that pupils in St Martin’s School and other children with special educational needs and/or disabilities wear masks if they are unable to use a mask with minimal assistance or if it is not in their best overall interest to wear one.”

But the Department advised there are two exceptions where mask-wearing is compulsory in this sector, for lunchtime staff and in learning zones where air conditioning units are required to be in use.

“If air conditioning units are in use whilst individuals are in a learning zone, all individuals in the learning zone (staff and students) are required to wear masks,” the policy said.

It added: “Whilst mask wearing is not required (other than the above two exceptions) within the rules for the Primary sector, masks can of course be worn by any member of staff or child who wishes to wear one. In fact, we encourage all staff to wear masks when moving about their buildings or when they are moving outside of their school group bubble.”

EXEMPTIONS

Children and young people who are not able to use their masks without assistance should not wear a mask due to safety concerns, the Department of Education said.

“We do not recommend the use of masks by children or young people who cannot tolerate a mask due to cognitive, sensory or mental health issues.”

Some individuals are exempt from wearing a face mask and this should be granted in writing by the Director of Public Health.

MASK GUIDANCE

Schools will provide masks for anyone who forgets to, or is unable to, bring one from home, but students and staff are encouraged to bring their own mask from home.

“Staff, young people and their parents should make sure a fresh clean cloth mask is used every day.”

“If a mask is not visibly clean it will not be allowed to be worn, as it constitutes a hygiene hazard. An alternative disposable mask will be given to individuals in such cases.”

The policy has advised masks should cover the nose and mouth while allowing a person to breathe comfortably, fit comfortably but securely against the side of the face, be secured to the head with ties or ear loops, be made of breathable material such as cotton, include at least two layers of fabric, and unless disposable, it should be able to be washed with other items of laundry according to fabric washing instructions and dried without causing the face covering to be damaged.

The Department continue to encourage people to have good hygiene by washing hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or using a hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on, avoid wearing on a mask on the neck or forehead, avoid touching the part of the face covering in contact with the mouth and nose, as it could be contaminated with the virus;, to change the face covering if it becomes damp or if it been touched and avoid taking the mask off and putting it back on a lot in quick succession.