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Students urged to wear face coverings in communal areas of schools and colleges

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Ace covers have been announced for public areas in England’s schools and colleges as part of measures to contain the spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant.

Under the new directive, all staff, visitors and pupils in Year 7 – the first year of high school – or higher are advised to wear a cap, unless they are excluded.

The measure, effective from Monday, covers all educational institutions including universities, as well as childcare places such as early years care.

The guidelines do not mean that masks must be worn in classrooms but it is recommended that masks be worn in public areas such as corridors.

Education Minister Nadim Zahawi said: “News of the new alternative – the so-called Omicron variant – will understandably cause concern to people across our country, including our teachers, education staff and the broader childcare, parents, pupils and students.

“We are already taking targeted and proportionate actions as a precaution as we discover more information about the new variant.

And as we do this, we will continue to prioritize the education and well-being of children and young people, ensuring that education and childcare settings are as safe as possible and that children continue to benefit from classroom teaching.

“We are working with education and childcare settings to strengthen safety measures when needed, including offering 10-day isolation to close contacts of suspected Omicron cases.

“I would like to thank everyone who works to support our children and youth for their patience and hard work.”

DfE said students in Year 7 or above should continue to wear face coverings on public and designated school transportation, unless they are exempt, and staff and students should continue to be encouraged to test themselves twice a week using lateral flow tests.

The department also said out-of-schools and colleges would “want to consider” whether to go ahead with any planned international trips for now, given the potential risks to education from the need for isolation and testing upon return to the UK.

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