Department of Education considering face coverings in schools

Updated recommendations will be published shortly by the department following engagement with teachers, principals, and school management bodies. 
Department of Education considering face coverings in schools

Updated recommendations will be published shortly by the department following engagement with teachers, principals, and school management bodies. Picture: File Picture.

Revised advice around the wearing of face coverings in schools is being considered by the Department of Education following significant changes to public policy on the wearing of masks. 

Updated recommendations will be published shortly by the department following engagement with teachers, principals, and school management bodies. 

This week, it was confirmed that face coverings are to become mandatory in all retail settings and on public transport, prompting calls to re-examine the policy around the wearing of masks in schools. 

Guidelines to colleges also issued this week advise students to wear masks in cases where they cannot keep a distance of two metres apart. 

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has kept the interim recommendations on reopening schools under review, a Department of Education spokesman confirmed. 

"Any change in public health advice on this or any other relevant matter to schools will be reflected where necessary in updated guidance to schools issuing from the Department," he said. 

Schools will receive guidance on accessing cleaning materials and PPE, including face coverings in line with the current health advice, he added. 

If the public health advice on the use of face coverings or masks in school settings changes in advance of reopening schools, the department is satisfied that different requirements can be catered for. 

If health advice on wearing face coverings in schools needs to be re-examined, it must happen ‘without delay’. 

That was the call from the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) after it added its voice to growing calls to clarify the health advice around wearing coverings in secondary school. 

“In relation to the re-opening of schools, the TUI has at all points been guided by the advice of the public health authorities,” said Martin Marjoram, TUI president. 

The TUI requires and has been assured that public health advice will be updated “as and when necessary” in terms of second-level workplaces, according to Mr Marjoram.

The union has also been assured that all precautionary measures will be continually monitored and revised, where required, he added. 

Last week, the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) wrote to Norma Foley, the Minister for Education, seeking a review of the public health advice for secondary schools. 

When interim advice on reopening schools was issued in June, a move to phase four of exiting the lockdown was planned for July 20. 

"It remains unclear whether phase 4 will have commenced prior to the reopening of schools," the ASTI said in a statement. "In that context, such a review would appear necessary. 

"Reducing the risk of transmission within schools must be prioritised." 

From August 10, face coverings will become mandatory in all shops and across public transport. Children under the age of 13 are exempt from the regulations. 

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