Face masks could return in UK schools if Covid surges

Education Secretary Nadim Zahawi says priority is to 'protect education'

Children in the UK may be asked to wear masks in schools again should Covid-19 cases spike over winter, Britain's recently installed education minister has said.

Pupils were obliged to wear them until May 17 when the requirement was removed as England entered stage 3 of its road map out of coronavirus lockdown.

The prospect of a return to masks in schools comes after government figures showed one in 20 pupils at secondary schools in England last week were estimated to have had coronavirus.

“On face masks, you know we have contingency plans in the department," Nadim Zahawi told The Telegraph newspaper.

“If we see further disruption, my very strong focus has to be to protect education.”

He cited the recent Big Ask survey by Children's Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza which found most of the half a million children surveyed preferred in-person learning to remote learning.

“We have got contingency plans to make sure that education remains open because, actually, what they told us is they really value being back at school with their schoolmates, in front of a teacher learning, and letting those creative juices flow,” Mr Zahawi said.

He also commended UK schoolchildren for their resilience, rejecting the notion popularised in some quarters that they are "Generation Snowflake", a pejorative term deployed to characterise young people as overly cosseted and quick to take offence.

"[The survey] found that [the UK's] young people are not snowflakes, they are pretty resilient, they have done pretty well to get through this pandemic,” said Mr Zahawi.

Updated: October 4th 2021, 11:50 AM