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Covid-19: masks no longer required in NI post-primary classrooms

Post-primary school pupils across Northern Ireland will soon no longer be required to wear face coverings in the classrooms.

Education Minister Michelle McIlveen confirmed today (Friday), that as of Monday, March 21, the recommendation that face coverings are worn by post-primary pupils in classrooms will be removed from her Department’s guidance.

However, the use of face-coverings at this stage will still be recommended in corridors, communal areas and on public and school transport.

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In a written statement to the Assembly, the Minister said she was making the announcement following a review.

Minister Michelle McIlveen. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

“I have taken into account the views of the Department of Health, trade unions, school staff, the parents who have either spoken or written to me and the young people who I have met in schools and through other avenues. I have also taken into account a range of studies from across the UK on this issue.

“I have been conscious of the need to balance the impact that the wearing of face coverings in classrooms has had on virus transmission with the challenges that wearing a face covering for long periods has brought to our young people and the disruption it has caused to their education,” she said.

The Minister added: “While I believe that we are at the point where the balance of relative risks is now in favour of removing this recommendation from guidance, Covid continues to circulate in our communities and in our schools and we should continue to reduce the risks of Covid in our schools through the range of other mitigating measures that remain in place to protect all pupils and staff.

“It is for this reason that if any individual wishes to continue to use a face covering in class, I would encourage them to do so.”

She said she had sought to give pupils, parents and schools sufficient notice of the change in order to allow any preparations to be made.

The Department said a guidance note would be issued to schools on this issue.

The move brings Northern Irish schools into line with the rest of the UK and Republic of Ireland.

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