Scotland’s education secretary has announced that all secondary pupils should wear face coverings in corridors, communal areas and on school transport from Monday.
The guidance from John Swinney will apply from 31 August to all high school pupils over the age of 12, but he underlined that it was not mandatory and that nobody should be sent home for not wearing a mask.
On Monday, the Scottish government said that it was consulting councils and teaching organisations about the measure after face coverings were recommended for secondary schools by the World Health Organization at the weekend.
WHO said face coverings were useful where physical distancing between adults and pupils aged 12 and over was impossible, or in areas of high transmission.
Confirming the timing of the new guidance, Swinney told BBC Radio Scotland the devolved government was “keeping pace with emerging advice”. He said that while there would be individual exemptions for wearing face coverings, as with adults, it would not be up to individual headteachers to decide whether to apply the measure.
Swinney said: “This comes on top of the existing guidance and information that we had received from our scientific advisers who said there was a place for the use of face coverings at different stages in education and what we’ve essentially done in the light of the WHO guidance is strengthen that to say in those communal areas where it is difficult to deliver physical distancing, and also on school transport in line with the guidance on public transport, young people should be wearing face covering as well.”
The move following growing concerns from teaching unions about classroom safety. The GMB Scotland union has also called for on-site testing for every school following a survey of its members which found that two-thirds of school support staff do not feel safe at work.