Face coverings to be mandatory in communal areas of schools

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As part of measures to prevent the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, ace coverings for communal areas in schools and colleges across England are to be brought back, it has been announced.

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Under the new guidance, in Year 7 – the first year of secondary school – or above all staff, visitors and pupils are “strongly advised” to wear a coverall unless exempted.

The measure, which goes into effect Monday, covers all education establishments as well as childcare settings, such as early years care.

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Education Secretary Nadim Zahvi said: “The news of a new edition – the so-called Omicron edition – will be of concern to people across our country, including our teachers, comprehensive education and childcare staff, parents, pupils and students.

However, this worrying situation emphasizes the need for better support from the government for the education sector.

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“We are already taking targeted and proportionate action as a precaution, while we are getting more information about the new version.

“As we do this, we will continue to prioritize the education and well-being of children and youth, ensuring that education and childcare settings are as safe as possible and that children continue to benefit from classroom learning.

“We are working with education and childcare settings to increase safety measures where necessary, including introducing 10 days of isolation for close contacts of suspected Omicron cases.

“I want to thank everyone working to support our children and youth for their patience and hard work.”

The education department said the guidance is tentative and will be reviewed in three weeks.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it supports the measures “as a sensible response to the risks posed by the Omicron version of Covid-19”.

But he added: “However, this worrying situation emphasizes the need for better support from the government for the education sector.”

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