Face coverings in education settings

It is the view of the Council based on current UK and WHO advice available that face coverings are for the protection of those around the wearer. They are unlikely to protect the wearer as they do not meet the requirements of personal protective equipment, therefore;

  • Primary aged pupils should not be expected to wear face covering anywhere in school and particularly not during lessons
  • Staff who are required to work across several cohorts (bubbles) are expected to maintain 2m social distancing at all times from pupils, where this is not possible additional controls will be put in place, see guidance on 1m+ below
  • Staff are always expected to maintain effective (2m) social distancing with other adults and where this is in place there is no expectation for the use of face coverings more widely within Primary Schools.
  • Staff anxious at returning to work may wear a face covering, recognising that it is ineffective at protecting them, rather it will protect those around them. Any staff choosing to wear a face covering need to ensure all the controls in the risk assessment put in place by the school are being followed and maintained. Staff must also don and doff their face covering correctly and must wash their hands prior to and after putting on or taking off the face covering. Importantly, when taking off the face covering it must immediately be placed in a plastic bag/double bag to prevent contaminating any other surface. Reusable face coverings should only be worn once and then washed before being reused
  • There may be members of staff for whom the wearing of face mask (not a face covering) for personal protection may be appropriate. Where this is the case it would be identified as a control in the individual health risk assessment.
  • All the above will be kept under regular review as evidence and the science of this pandemic improve

COVID-19 Risk Assessment

Schools will have a building risk assessment that identifies the general arrangements for the layout and operations of the school to keep cohorts separated and how the school will implement the control hierarchy of:

  1. Ensuring that any individual with symptoms does not attend school, and if they develop symptoms in school, then relevant guidance is followed
  2. Good hand hygiene – wash hands for 20 seconds (sing “happy birthday” twice for 20 seconds)
  3. Good respiratory hygiene – Catch it, Bin it, Kill it (use a tissue or the crook of your arm)
  4. Enhanced cleaning regime
  5. Creating cohort groups (Bubbles) to minimise the potential of spread across the school
  6. Social Distancing – keeping 2m apart, especially adults, so far as is reasonably practicable and if 1m+ using additional controls
  7. Arranging classrooms for pupils to face in the same direction
  8. Provision of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when providing personal care
  9. Maintaining and where reasonably practicable improving ventilation in the building, to minimise the build-up of any potential Covid-19 in the atmosphere

Appendix 1: Chief Medical Officers’ statement on schools and childcare reopening

Pupils

We are confident that multiple sources of evidence show that a lack of schooling increases inequalities, reduces the life chances of children and can exacerbate physical and mental health issues. School improves health, learning, socialisation and opportunities throughout the life course including employment. It has not been possible to reduce societal inequalities through the provision of home-based education alone. School attendance is very important for children and young people.

We are confident in the extensive evidence that there is an exceptionally small risk of children of primary or secondary school age dying from COVID-19. The infection fatality rate (proportion of those who are infected who die) for those aged 5 to 14 is estimated at 14 per million, lower than for most seasonal flu infections. Every death of a child is a tragedy but COVID-19 deaths in children and teenagers are fortunately extremely rare and almost all deaths are in children with significant pre-existing health conditions.

We are confident that there is clear evidence of a very low rate of severe disease in children of primary and secondary school ages compared to adults, even if they catch COVID-19. The percentage of symptomatic cases requiring hospitalisation is estimated to be 0.1% for children aged 0 to 9 and 0.3% among those aged 10 to 19, compared to a hospitalisation rate of over 4% in the UK for the general population. Most of these children make a rapid recovery. Control measures such as hand and surface hygiene, cohorting to reduce number of daily contacts, and directional controls to reduce face-to-face contact remain key elements of maintaining COVID-19 secure school environments and minimising risk. Children and young people who were previously shielding were identified on a precautionary basis at a stage when we had less data on the effects of COVID-19 in children than we do now. Based on our better understanding of COVID-19 the great majority have now been advised they do not need to do so again, and that they should return to school. A small number of children under paediatric care (such as recent transplant or very immuno-suppressed children) have been or will be given individual advice about any ongoing need to avoid infection.

Our overall consensus is that, compared to adults, children may have a lower risk of catching COVID-19 (lowest in younger children), definitely have a much lower rate of hospitalisation and severe disease, and an exceptionally low risk of dying from COVID-19. Very few, if any, children or teenagers will come to long-term harm from COVID-19 due solely to attending school. This has to be set against a certainty of long-term harm to many children and young people from not attending school.

Staff

Data from the UK (Office for National Statistics (ONS)) suggest teachers are not at increased risk of dying from COVID-19 compared to the general working-age population. ONS data identifies teaching as a lower risk profession (no profession is zero risk). International data support this. Transmission of COVID-19 to staff members in school does occur, and data from UK and international studies suggest it may largely be staff to staff (like other workplaces) rather than pupil to staff. This reinforces the need to maintain social distancing and good infection control inside and outside classroom settings, particularly between staff members and between older children and adults. If teachers, other school staff, parents or wider family catch COVID-19 their risks of severe illness are similar to those of other adults of the same age, ethnicity and health status. Younger adults have a much lower risk of severe COVID-19 than older adults. the greatest risk is to those over 80 years old.

Working safely in primary schools

Children aged 5 years and under should not be required to wear masks. This is based on the safety and overall interest of the child and the capacity to appropriately use a mask with minimal assistance. WHO and UNICEF advise that the decision to use masks for children aged 6-11 should be based on the following factors:

  • whether there is widespread transmission in the area where the child resides;
  • the ability of the child to safely and appropriately use a mask;
  • access to masks, as well as laundering and replacement of masks in certain settings (such as schools and childcare services);
  • adequate adult supervision and instructions to the child on how to put on, take off and safely wear masks;
  • potential impact of wearing a mask on learning and psycho-social development, in consultation with teachers, parents/caregivers and/or medical providers;
  • specific settings and interactions the child has with other people who are at high risk of developing serious illness, such as the elderly and those with other underlying health conditions.

Providing the controls in the risk assessment are functioning effectively it would not be expected for primary school children to be wearing a face covering in school and especially in the classroom. Additionally, on the basis of current evidence, in light of the mitigating measures schools are taking, and the negative impact on communication, face coverings will not generally be necessary in the classroom even where social distancing is not possible. There is greater use of the system of controls for minimising risk, including through keeping in small and consistent groups or bubbles, and greater scope for physical distancing by staff within classrooms. Face coverings can have a negative impact on learning and teaching and so their use in the classroom should be avoided.

Additional Controls for 1m+

  • Plan lessons around preventing infection spread e.g. pre-record, so you don’t have to raise your voice
  • Stand rather than crouch or sit on the floor, as this is likely give you a different breathing zone from the pupils and the droplets from any sneeze/cough will fall further away from your breathing zone
  • Stand behind the pupil rather than standing beside, so if they sneeze or cough the direction is away from your breathing zone. Remind pupils why you are standing behind them, so they are less likely to turn around.
  • If having to be face to face for small group work use a see-through screen to create a barrier between the staff and pupils, which is bigger, better and more effective than a visor. Always wash your hands before and after these sessions and do not touch your face
  • Use recordings, e.g. an audio book, you tube clip, etc.

The wearing of face visors is not recommended, unless the user is also wearing a suitable face mask, as required through the risk assessment wearing of PPE controls. A face visor will not protect against a major route of infection of breathing in infected droplets, which can lead to those wearing a visor not adequately socially distancing and taking unnecessary risks.

Face Coverings

Face coverings are not personal protective equipment, as they do not protect the wearers breathing zone, they are there to protect those nearby the wearer as large droplets of moisture are caught in the covering.

Pupils

Schools should consider the advice above along with:

  • young children are unlikely to be a significant route of spreading the virus, current evidence shows spread is caused by adult to adult in schools;
  • young children are unlikely to wear face coverings correctly and may increase the risk of infection by having lower standards of good respiratory and hand hygiene, along with taking them off and putting them on surfaces rather than directly into a plastic bag;
  • inability of staff to adequately monitor the proper putting on, wearing and taking off of face coverings;
  • wearing a face covering makes it more difficult for communication between the teacher and the pupil, inhibiting learning.

Staff

  • Staff are not expected to wear face coverings, providing they follow the controls indicated in the risk assessment.
  • Where there is an increased transmission rate staff may need to wear face coverings in certain circumstances, on advice from the Council.

Working safely in secondary schools

Research conducted by Public Health England into cases and outbreaks in education settings earlier in the pandemic indicates that very few children and staff were infected with COVID19 in school. They found that out of out of more than 1 million children attending preschool and primary school in June, just 70 children were affected and that transmission in the community is most responsible for driving spread in school. Staff members were more likely to be affected by the virus than students, though not more likely than the general population as a whole.

Prior to the full opening of schools, face coverings had not been recommended in any educational settings. On Tuesday 25 August 2020, the government revised its guidance in relation to the wearing of face coverings in school. In light of this and taking into account the low levels of COVID19 transmission in Waltham Forest, the Council has developed this advice for secondary schools on face coverings.

International and national guidance

The World Health Organisation published a statement on Friday 21 August 2020 about children and face coverings. They now advise that “children aged 12 and over should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults, in particular when they cannot guarantee at least a 1-metre distance from others and there is widespread transmission in the area.” On Tuesday 25 August 2020, the government updated their guidance on the use of face coverings in school stating that “nationwide, the government is not recommending face coverings are necessary in education settings generally because a system of control, applicable to all education environments, provides additional mitigating measures. Schools and colleges will have the discretion to require face coverings in communal areas where social distancing cannot be safely managed, if they believe that it is right in their particular circumstances.” The government has advised, consistent with WHO’s new advice, that secondary schools should take additional precautionary measures in areas where the transmission of the virus is high. In areas where COVID-19 transmission is high and local interventions (a lockdown) has been put in place, then in secondary schools, face coverings should be worn by adults and pupils when moving around in communal areas and corridors where social distancing is not possible.

Local position

The rate of transmission across the London Borough of Waltham Forest is currently low, after a small uptick and then drop in infection rates in the last three weeks (9 – 29 August 2020). This means that secondary schools in Waltham Forest should not require staff and pupils to wear a face covering in communal areas at this time. It is up to the school’s discretion to decide if this is something that is right for their particular circumstances. The Public Health team along with other colleagues, are keeping a close watch on the rate, along with identifying any clusters or at risk groups and providing support and guidance on managing the risk. In the event of new local restrictions being imposed, schools and colleges will need to communicate quickly and clearly to staff, parents, pupils and learners that the new arrangements require the use of face coverings in certain circumstances.

Additional Controls for 1m+

  • Plan lessons around preventing infection spread e.g. pre-record, so you don’t have to raise your voice,
  • Use recordings, e.g. an audio book, you tube clip, etc.
  • Teaching staff should deliver their lesson from the front of the classroom, ideally maintaining a 2m distance from the pupils
  • Stand behind the pupil rather than standing beside, so if they sneeze or cough the direction is away from your breathing zone. Remind pupils why you are standing behind them, so they are less likely to turn around.
  • Staff should maintain at least a 2m distance from other staff at all times and schools may wish to consider staggering access to shared areas such as office space and staff rooms.

The wearing of face visors is not recommended, unless the user is also wearing a suitable face mask, as required through the risk assessment wearing of PPE controls. A face visor will not protect against a major route of infection of breathing in infected droplets, which can lead to those wearing a visor not adequately socially distancing and taking unnecessary risks.

Face coverings

Face coverings are not personal protective equipment, as they do not protect the wearers breathing zone, they are there to protect those nearby the wearer as large droplets of moisture are caught in the covering.

Pupils

Schools should consider the advice above along with:

  • Current evidence shows spread is more likely to be caused by adult to adult in schools, than children to adults;
  • Children may not wear face coverings correctly and may increase the risk of infection by having lower standards of good respiratory and hand hygiene, along with taking them off and putting them on surfaces rather than directly into a plastic bag;
  • Inability of staff to adequately monitor the proper putting on, wearing and taking off of face coverings;
  • Wearing a face covering makes it more difficult for communication between the teacher and the pupil, inhibiting learning and therefore it is not advised that face coverings are worn in the classroom setting

Staff

Schools should consider the following advice for staff:

  • Staff are not expected to wear face coverings, providing they follow the controls indicated in the risk assessment.
  • Where there is an increased transmission rate staff may need to wear face coverings in certain circumstances, on advice from the council

Working safely in special schools

Special schools already have infection control procedures and educational health care plans for pupils. These should be reviewed due to the additional risk of the Coronavirus Covid-19. Where staff are at risk of aerosol infection from pupils and are in close contact it is expected the infection control procedures will apply and appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be worn. Additionally, health care workers providing support in special schools will follow the agreed Infection Prevention and Control for Health Care Settings. Where there are higher risks of potential aerosol infection, special schools may adopt the same controls for their staff as health care workers.

Public Health England does not (based on current evidence) recommend the use of face coverings in education settings, except where they are already routinely used as part of close contact care. This evidence will be kept under review. They are not required in education settings as pupils and staff are mixing in consistent groups, and because misuse may inadvertently increase the risk of transmission. There may also be negative effects on communication and thus education. Face coverings are required at all times on public transport (for children over the age of 11) or when attending a hospital as a visitor or outpatient.

Additional Controls for 1m+

  • Plan lessons around preventing infection spread e.g. pre-record, so you don’t have to raise your voice,
  • Use recordings, e.g. an audio book, you tube clip, etc.
  • Teaching staff should deliver their lesson from the front of the classroom, ideally maintaining a 2m distance from the pupils
  • Stand behind the pupil rather than standing beside, so if they sneeze or cough the direction is away from your breathing zone. Remind pupils why you are standing behind them, so they are less likely to turn around.
  • Staff should maintain at least a 2m distance from other staff at all times and schools may wish to consider staggering access to shared areas such as office space and staff rooms.
  • The wearing of face visors is not recommended, unless the user is also wearing a suitable face mask, as required through the risk assessment wearing of PPE controls. A face visor will not protect against a major route of infection of breathing in infected droplets, which can lead to those wearing a visor not adequately socially distancing and taking unnecessary risks.

Face coverings

Face coverings are not personal protective equipment, as they do not protect the wearers breathing zone, they are there to protect those nearby the wearer as large droplets of moisture are caught in the covering.

Pupils

Schools should consider the advice above along with:

  • Current evidence shows spread is more likely to be caused by adult to adult in schools, than children to adults;
  • Children may not wear face coverings correctly and may increase the risk of infection by having lower standards of good respiratory and hand hygiene, along with taking them off and putting them on surfaces rather than directly into a plastic bag;
  • Inability of staff to adequately monitor the proper putting on, wearing and taking off of face coverings;
  • Wearing a face covering makes it more difficult for communication between the teacher and the pupil, inhibiting learning and therefore it is not advised that face coverings are worn in the classroom setting
  • Pupils may have a medical or behaviour issue preventing the safe wearing of a face covering

Staff

Schools should consider the following advice for staff:

  • Staff are not expected to wear face coverings, providing they follow the controls indicated in the risk assessment.
  • Where there is an increased transmission rate staff may need to wear face coverings in certain circumstances, on advice from the council. 
Last update: Wednesday 9th of September 2020 02:36:46 PM