Secondary schools will be given “obligatory guidance” that pupils should wear face coverings when moving around schools from next Monday, Scotland’s Education Secretary has confirmed.
John Swinney said that from August 31 pupils should be wearing masks in areas where physical distancing is not possible.
Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme, he said the Scottish Government was going further than the World Health Organisation guidance by recommending masks on school buses.
The guidance will apply to all secondary schools, he said, but pupils will not be excluded from school if they do not wear a face covering.
Further detail on the guidance is expected to be published later on Tuesday.
From August 31, young people over the age of 12 in secondary schools should be habitually wearing face coverings when they’re moving around in schools and corridors and in communal areasJohn Swinney
He said: “From August 31, young people over the age of 12 in secondary schools should be habitually wearing face coverings when they’re moving around in schools and corridors and in communal areas where it is difficult to deliver the physical distancing which is an inherent part of the guidance that the education recovery group has put in place after widespread consultation and dialogue.”
He said that headteachers had felt the rules would be a “beneficial move” during discussions last week.
Mr Swinney continued: “Now, of course, there will be exemptions for this, because the wearing of face coverings is not suitable for all individuals and that has to be respected.”
The guidance will state that pupils should not be excluded from school if they do not wish to wear a face covering.
The Education Secretary added: “That will be explicit within the guidance that we put out, that a young person is not to be excluded for that reason, but it’s obligatory guidance on all secondary schools, special schools and grant-aided schools.”
Jo Bisset, organiser of the campaign group Us For Them Scotland, criticised the move, saying “This is a very disappointing move and parents across Scotland will be angry at this new rule.
“It will impact vulnerable pupils the most and creates another unnecessary challenge for children who’ve already endured months of misery.
“This is also a slippery slope. Today it’s over-12s in certain areas of school. But parents are worried that will very easily become all areas of the school, including the classroom.
“And if masks must be worn by those over 12, why not by eight and nine-year-olds?
“The WHO guidance says this applies in areas where there are high rates of infection, but we know in Scotland that is simply not the case at the moment.
“We urge the Scottish Government to keep this under review, and lift the mandatory wearing of masks at the earliest possible opportunity.”