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School makes face masks compulsory for pupils and teachers

Belfast Royal Academy informed parents of the new policy in a letter.

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Sign at the main building to Belfast Royal Academy in Northern Ireland (Liam McBurney/PA)

Sign at the main building to Belfast Royal Academy in Northern Ireland (Liam McBurney/PA)

Sign at the main building to Belfast Royal Academy in Northern Ireland (Liam McBurney/PA)

A leading Northern Ireland school has told pupils and staff they must wear face masks when classes resume.

Belfast Royal Academy, a co-educational grammar school in the north of the city, issued the guidance in a letter to parents and guardians.

It said pupils would not be allowed into class without a mask.

The school said it would be issuing washable face masks to pupils.

Last week, Stormont’s education minister Peter Weir said children would not have to wear masks in schools, insisting such a policy would be “not implementable”.

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Peter Weir has said he would not be recommending the wearing of face coverings by pupils when schools return (Presseye/PA)

Peter Weir has said he would not be recommending the wearing of face coverings by pupils when schools return (Presseye/PA)

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Peter Weir has said he would not be recommending the wearing of face coverings by pupils when schools return (Presseye/PA)

However, the executive’s chief scientific adviser Professor Ian Young has said the wearing of face coverings by older pupils in certain school settings could offer some benefit.

The email issued by the school said implementing strict social distancing requirements would be extremely difficult given the large pupil and staff population.

“Therefore, in order to protect all members of the school community, including those who are vulnerable, all pupils, staff and visitors must wear a face covering within the schools buildings,” it stated.

“Every pupil will be provided with a washable face mask in school colours.”

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Belfast Royal Academy (Liam McBurney/PA)

Belfast Royal Academy (Liam McBurney/PA)

PA

Belfast Royal Academy (Liam McBurney/PA)

The school said pupils would not be permitted to wear disposable masks due to their environmental impact.

The letter added: “If a pupil arrives to school without a face mask, they will not be permitted to enter the classroom.”

School principal Hilary Woods later stated that provision would be made for those individuals who would have a difficulty in wearing a mask.

She said masks would also not be required when pupils were exercising, eating or drinking or playing outside in the playground.

In another development on Tuesday, a secondary school in Ballymena has told A Level and GSCE students to wear face masks when they collect exam results in the coming weeks.

Slemish College said while it would “strongly encourage” all students to wear face masks to school on a daily basis it would not be a mandatory policy.

The Department of Education is due to issue detailed guidance on the use of face coverings and other PPE in school settings later this week.

Pupils in Northern Ireland are due to return to school full time when the new academic year begins at the end of the month.

Face coverings became mandatory in shops in Northern Ireland on Monday.

They are also compulsory on public transport.

A Department of Education spokeswoman said: “Any specific public health advice will be followed regarding the use of PPE and face coverings for teachers and pupils.

“Detailed guidance on the reopening of schools will be issued this week and will include advice on the use of PPE and face coverings.”

Northern Ireland’s first Covid-19 linked death in almost a month was reported in the Department of Health’s daily statistics on Monday, taking the total to 557 since the outbreak began.

There were no further deaths announced on Tuesday. Another 48 confirmed cases were announced, bringing the overall tally to 6,188.

PA