Great Britain

Pupils will only have to wear face masks until Easter as measures lift in summer term, Ofsted chief hopes

EDUCATION chiefs hope schoolchildren will only have to wear their face masks in class until Easter - with measures lifting during the summer term, an education chief said.

Amanda Spielman, the chief executive of Ofsted, said Brit youngsters are "adaptable and flexible" - but admits she hopes masks and testing will be gone from schools soon.

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All youngsters in secondary schools, as well as teachers and support staff, are advised to wear masks from tomorrow.

The coverings should stay on in classes, as well as during breaks and when children pack up to leave school grounds.

No requirement is in place for primary schools, although teachers have been advised to wear masks "where possible".

Ms Spielman told Sky's Sophy Ridge this morning that parents and children "can cope" with the measure.

"The vast majority of parents, children and teachers are really happy to be going back," she said.

"They can live with a little bit of inconvenience for a few weeks."

But she added: "I really hope paraphernalia of masks and testing is only for short time.

"Let's make sure children get the pleasure of learning, socialising and wider activities."

And she added: "We've been told the face mask guidance will be reviewed at Easter.

"I love the idea of children being able to come back in the summer term able to see everybody fully."

On Tuesday, the Government intervened to stop councils requiring children in primary schools in England to wear face masks.

The move came after it emerged that Redbridge council in east London had advised headteachers to consider face coverings for primary school pupils in the borough as part of Covid health and safety measures.

New Government guidance for pupils returning to school next week states that children in primary school do not need to wear a face covering, but “recommends” that secondary school pupils should wear masks in classrooms without making it mandatory.

It means there's no legal power to enforce mask-wearing.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson this morning backed the measure, and said children deserve credit for their efforts to keep friends and family safe.

I love the idea of children being able to come back in the summer term able to see everybody fully

Amanda Spielman

"We recognise asking people to go above and beyond," he said.

"We hope this is temporary measure."

In an interview on Sky, he said teachers will be handed "clear guidance" on how to approach the issue.

"Wearing a mask is just one small element of all the protections in place, whether that's the distancing, bubbling, keeping to year groups or staggered home times - all of these measures go towards reducing Covid," he said.

And he argued the measures have already been successful - with just 0.2 per cent of pupils testing positive for Covid between September and Christmas.

Elsewhere, the minister gave the clearest hint yet summer holidays could be slashed - and the school day made longer.

But Ms Spielman says the measures could "backfire".

"I really want to make sure all children get full ration of schooling," she said.

However, she added: "There's no point adding time here or moving time there if you don't get groundswell of support.

"If children don't turn up, you're putting a lot of effort into something doesn't achieve its objective.

"I want to go with grain of what parents will embrace to make sure all children get the most."

Summer holidays could be cut with five-term year and longer school day in biggest reform since WW2, Education Sec says

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