WORRIED politicians, unions, and health experts across Wales have reacted angrily to the Welsh Government’s decision to leave rules on whether face masks should be worn in schools down to councils and education authorities.

The government announced yesterday that it would not – unlike governments in Scotland and Northern Ireland – be making face coverings mandatory in communal school settings.

In a statement, health minister Vaughan Gething and education minister Kirsty Williams said: "The current advice from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales is that face coverings are recommended for all members of the public over 11 years in indoor settings in which social distancing cannot be maintained, including schools and school transport.

"We will amend our operational guidance for schools and FE (further education) to require settings and local authorities to undertake risk assessments of their estates to determine if face coverings should be recommended for their staff and young people in communal areas. This will also include school and college transport.”

But Asthma UK, together with British Lung Foundation Wales, have said they are “concerned that the advice does not go far enough to protecting vulnerable children with asthma”.

“We are somewhat disappointed that the announcement does not make face coverings mandatory,” said Joseph Carter, head of the organisation.

“This puts Wales out of step with the rest of the UK and without a clear unified position, this will only lead to confusion and uncertainty for teachers, parents, and pupils.”


Jonathan Lewis, UNISON Cymru Wales schools forum chairman, said: “The Welsh Government should have given clear guidance on this and followed the chief medical officer’s recommendation.

“Leaving it to local authorities and schools to decide is likely to create a great deal of inconsistency throughout Wales.

“Given the severe difficulties in maintaining social distancing in schools, every possible measure to reduce the risk of transmission needs to be put in place.

“It is the school support staff that UNISON represents who are often in closest contact with pupils; the government, local authorities and schools have a legal duty to protect their well-being.”

Conservative councillor and cabinet member for education at Monmouthshire council, Richard John, said it showed a “complete lack of leadership”.

He said: “What’s the point in governments receiving expert scientific advice if they’re going to pass the buck to schools and councils not privy to that advice?”

And the Welsh Conservatives' shadow minister for education Suzy Davies said: “Policy in relation to face coverings must be led by scientific evidence alone. If the evidence proves that wearing a face mask will create a safer environment for students and staff alike – and crucially, enabling more students to get back into school, back into education, and back to learning – then we would consider supporting their introduction.

“However, the announcement by the Health and Education Ministers is the worst of both worlds, putting the responsibility on the shoulders of schools and councils, while trying to absolve itself of responsibility for the decision.”

The Welsh Government has said the guidance will remain under review as the pandemic continues and may change if community prevalence changes across Wales.