Local health bosses can now recommend the return of face masks in communal spaces of schools in areas where infection rates spike, new guidance states.
It replaces guidance that stated local directors of public health could advise the use of face coverings in communal spaces where the local area had been offered an “enhanced response package” by government, or in areas with “enduring transmission”.
The change means public health directors will have more leeway to bring back masks in communal areas without having to be in an “enhanced” response area, or suffering high Covid rates over a long period.
The Department for Education has updated its contingency framework for education and childcare settings.
The guidance previously stated that reintroduction of face coverings in both communal areas and classrooms could be advised for individual settings to manage outbreaks or for schools across areas offered an enhanced response package or with “enduring transmission”.
The updated guidance remains the same for face coverings in classrooms and for individual school outbreaks, but has been updated for the use of masks in communal areas.
These can now be recommended if a school is in an area of “high or rapidly increasing prevalence”, where increased lateral-flow testing and “actions to increase vaccination uptake” are also being advised.
It comes after Schools Week revealed last month that a growing number of councils have reintroduced Covid restrictions in schools as case rates rise in their areas.
Attendance data for the week before half term showed the huge variation in disruption across the country, with Covid-related absence ranging from 0.6 per cent in one London borough to 22 per cent in Swindon, Wiltshire.