Great Britain

Face masks and Covid tests are NOT compulsory in secondary schools & kids shouldn’t be sent home for refusing, govt says

FACE masks and Covid tests will not be compulsory in secondary schools when kids return on March 8.

The Government has said both measures are "voluntary" and that teachers should not send pupils home for refusing.

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Boris Johnson announced this week that secondary school kids are to be tested twice a week under fresh plans to get children back in the classroom in England next month.

They will also be required to wear face masks if it is not possible to socially distance at two metres apart.

But according to ministers these measures are not a legal requirement and children must not be kicked out of the classroom if they resist.

Official guidance from the Department for Education states that "no pupil should be denied education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering".

It also states that lateral flow testing is "voluntary" and "schools will have discretion on how to test students over that week as they return to the classroom".

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said on Wednesday: "In line with public health guidance, we are also now advising that face coverings should be worn in secondary school classrooms as well as in further and higher education settings unless social distancing can be maintained.

"Again, this is to help reduce transmission."

He reassured parents that risk to children is "incredibly low" and that this is a "temporary measure" that will be in place until Easter, when it will be reviewed.

And the PM's roadmap out of lockdown states: "The Government recommends that the use of face coverings in Higher Education, Further Education and secondary schools is extended for a limited period to all indoor environments - including classrooms - unless 2m social distancing can be maintained.

"Face coverings are now also recommended in early years and primary schools for staff and adult visitors in situations where social distancing between adults is not possible, for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas.

"All children will once again be expected to attend school, as they were in the autumn term."

Some parents have said they will refuse to send their kids back to school if masks are made compulsory.

Molly Kingsley, co-founder of parent campaign group UsForThem, told The Telegraph: "It's great that children will be back in school, but it should not be at any price – and certainly not at a price as grave as this.

"Face masks are an untested intervention and one that many respected academics and doctors have raised serious concerns about from a psychological point of view but also due to the potential physical harm and the long-term effects of face coverings on brain development and educational attainment."

She added that UsForThem has received "hundreds" of messages from parents saying they will keep their kids at home due to the mask requirement.

And millions more secondary school pupils may not return to classrooms for at least a week after March 8 as teachers face mass Covid testing nightmares.

Julie McCulloch from the Association of School and College Leaders union has slammed the "huge logistical challenge" and thinks kids returning on time is "extremely unlikely".

But it is not all bad as teens look set for a record haul of GCSEs and A levels this year as officials abandon trying to control soaring grades.

Normal summer exams have been ditched and teachers will instead decide what results students get, with the help of voluntary "mini" subject tests.

The Government recommends that in primary schools, staff and adult visitors wear face coverings in situations where social distancing is not possible.

But primary school age children do not need to wear face coverings.

Young children in Scotland and Wales headed back to school on Monday.

Gavin Williamson says 'incredibly low risk' for kids and confirms staggered starts, masks and rules for schools return

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