Teachers and secondary school students will be required to wear face coverings in classrooms following new public health advice issued to schools this evening.
New guidelines published this evening recommend that face coverings be worn by teachers and secondary school students, similar to those worn in shops or on public transport, when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
It follows calls from teaching unions to clarify the Department of Education’s stance on the wearing of masks in classrooms and schools.
All students at post-primary level, apart from specific exemptions, will be required to wear face coverings in the classroom, according to the new guidelines from the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).
Staff, including teachers at both primary and post primary levels, who cannot maintain a 2 metre distance from students or other staff will also be required to wear face coverings.
All staff and students using the post-primary transport service will also be required to wear face coverings on the bus.
All SNAs will also be required to wear face coverings, or in certain situations clear visors, in the classroom.
Other staff who have close contact with students will be required to wear face coverings, for example bus escorts.
The recommended face coverings are reusable, and should be washed once everyday, which is in line with the general recommendations on the wearing of face coverings.
Education minister Norma Foley moved to assure parents, teachers and students that she has been working with public health authorities to ensure that the advice underpinning the safe reopening of schools is fully up to date.
Public health authorities have since confirmed that recommendations initially issued in July remain current, with the exception of changes to guidance on the wearing of face coverings.
“I wish to thank again all members of school staff and parents for the roles they are playing and will continue to play as schools return at the end of August,” Ms Foley said.
“We will continue to communicate with schools, education partners, parents and students, as schools reopen, and keep a close eye to ensure that the supports are working as intended.”