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Are face masks mandatory in UK schools? Face covering rules for primary and secondary schools explained

Pupils in Year 7 and above are being ‘strongly advised’ to wear masks amid rising cases of Omicron Covid variant

Face masks will once again become mandatory on public transport and in shops in England from Tuesday (30 November) amid concerns over the Covid Omicron variant.

But what are the rules for children wearing face masks in school?

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Here’s what you need to know.

What are the new rules for children wearing masks in schools?

Teachers and pupils in secondary schools in England are now being “strongly advised” to wear masks in communal areas outside classrooms.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi recommended that staff, visitors and pupils in Year 7 and above should wear masks in communal areas in schools, colleges and universities such as corridors, canteens and halls in England from Monday (29 November).

This comes as a new Covid variant anamed Omicron has been identified in the UK, with concerns it could spread rapidly and partially evade existing vaccines.

In Scotland, masks are compulsory for all secondary school pupils and teachers whereas in Wales, they are still legally required in most public indoor spaces, but not in schools.

In Northern Ireland, masks are compulsory on school transport for all secondary-age pupils, and it’s "strongly recommended" by the Northern Irish government that they’re worn in classrooms.

However, there’s no law to say pupils have to do this. Primary school pupils don’t have to wear them in schools, but are advised to wear them on school transport.

Where else do face masks have to be worn?

Downing Street has confirmed that face masks will be made mandatory in all shops and on public transport in England from 4am on Tuesday (30 November).

This will bring the country back in line with the rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but masks will not be required in pubs or restaurants, or at concerts or events.

The new rules will also be enforceable by a penalty, meaning those who fail to comply will be fined.

Failure to wear a mask will result in a £200 fine for the first offence, but this charge will then double for any further rule breaks.

As such, a second offence will be punishable by £400, a third will cost £800, with fines continuing to climb up to £6,400.

However, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that people can half their fine by paying within the first two weeks, as was the case last year.

What are the rules for travel?

Everyone coming back to the UK from other countries will also now have to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival.

They will also have to self-isolate until they receive confirmation that their test is negative.