COVID-19: Face coverings in secondary schools across the UK 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced face coverings will be mandatory in some secondary school settings from the 1st of September. The schools affected will be in areas of high risk or subject to a 'local lockdown' in the bid to suppress transmission. 

These areas currently include:

  • Blackburn with Darwen
  • City of Manchester
  • Leicester
  • Luton
  • Oldham
  • Pendle
  • Northampton

The Government has stated that headteachers can make face coverings mandatory in some secondary school settings if they wish to do so. 

The new ruling applies to school settings where social distancing may be hard to maintain, such as corridors, communal areas and buses. However, face masks will not be enforced in classrooms, so long as pupils can socially distance themselves from each other. 

Secondary schools in Scotland and Northern Irland will introduce face covering for some school settings from 31st August. 

While it is only expected that pupils over the age of 12 will have to wear coverings around the school, on school buses it will be advised that all pupils over 5 years old wear a face covering.

In Wales, the decision to make face coverings mandatory has been left for councils and schools. However, the Government has advised that children aged 12 and over, should wear a face coverings where social distancing is hard to maintain. 

The new rulings across the UK come after the World Health Orgainsation (WHO) published advice for children wearing face coverings or masks. The advice states that children over the age of 12 should wear a face covering, in line with the recommended practice for adults in their country or area. 

What is the latest WHO guidance for parents and children? 

The WHO has given further advice for children and parents to control the transmission of Covid-19 around the school and loved ones: 

  • Children aged 12 and over should wear a face mask under the same conditions as adults, in particular where social distancing cannot be maintained and widespread transmission is possible.

  • For children aged between six and 11, it's been advised that parents take into account when the child is interacting with vulnerable or high-risk individuals, such as elderly grandparents. Supervision is also advised if/when a child is wearing a face mask to make sure the mask is removed and disposed of correctly. 

  • In general, children aged five and under should not wear a facemask. There may be local requirements for children aged 5 years and under to wear masks, or specific needs in some settings, such as being physically close to someone who is ill. However, when a child aged five and under is wearing a mask, an adult should be within direct line of sight to supervise.

What are other countries doing?

France will make face coverings for children over the age of 11 mandatories from the 1st of September in all school indoor settings. 


Italy is making face coverings mandatory for children and adults from the 14th of September. Students will be sat 1 meter apart with class sizes also becoming smaller to adhere to social distancing. 

Spain has made masks mandatory for children over 6 on school transport, and it will be required for pupils and teachers to social distance 1.5m apart at all times, except for children in bubbles.

The majority of countries have left the decision, of making face coverings compulsory, to individual schools or regions. To help stop transmission around schools, there has been heightened hygiene advice given across the world reminding pupils to not touch banisters, wash their hands after eating or touching food and avoid touching their faces. Some countries are making class sizes much smaller to allow for social distancing, making cleaning more frequent within schools and checking ventilation systems are adequate. 

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