The government is considering lifting the face mask requirement for secondary school students in England despite opposition from unions.
Gavin Williamson told The Telegraph that the government plans to remove the measure at the third stage of its roadmap out of lockdown, which would not be until May 17.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to make the announcement on Monday, according to the newspaper.
Government plans to lift face mask requirement for high school students in England despite union opposition
Current guidelines state that face coverings should be worn by students and teachers in classrooms where social distancing cannot be maintained, but it is not mandatory.
Students are expected to always be encouraged to wear masks in hallways and other common areas.
It comes as a group of unions and scientists wrote to Mr Williamson to demand that face masks remain in schools until at least June 21, describing the measure as “an essential part of the larger system of control in schools ”.
Mr Williamson told the Telegraph: ‘As infection rates continue to decline and our vaccination program is successful, we plan to remove the requirement to cover your face in the classroom through third grade. roadmap step. “
He added: “The removal of face masks will dramatically improve interactions between teachers and students, while all other school safety measures will remain in place to help prevent the virus from entering classrooms. “
But many teachers’ unions have called for the masks to be kept.
Gavin Williamson said the government plans to remove the measure in step three of its road map out of lockdown
Kevin Courtney, of the National Education Union, said: “Everyone is looking at the data and I think some schools will continue to use face masks after May 17 and the NEU would be supporting the schools in making that decision. “
The letter to Mr Williamson, from five unions representing teachers and support staff, as well as scientists, public health experts and parents, highlights concerns about the risks of developing long-term Covid, warning that approximately 43,000 children and 114,000 school staff are believed to be suffering from the condition.
The letter read: “Removing these necessary protections, when there are already too few mitigation measures in schools, and when Covid-19 rates are still high, would have consequences for the health of our children and their parents as well as their communities. “.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said: “As infection rates continue to decline and our vaccination program is successful, we plan to remove the requirement to cover the face in the room. class, in accordance with the third step of the roadmap.
“Transmission of the virus in schools continues to decline, with the latest data showing a significant decrease in the number of students and staff testing positive and isolated cases rapidly thanks to our bi-monthly rapid screening program.