THE Education Minister Peter Weir has visited All Saints College in West Belfast after issuing new guidance on the use of face coverings in schools.

Mr Weir met with officials at the the Glen Road school today (Wednesday).

It comes after he announced recommendations for pupils and teachers to wear face masks in corridors of post-primary schools.

The new guidance will come into effect on 31 August when schools return on a full-time basis.

“My key priority is that pupils return to school on a full-time basis, as soon as it is safe to do so," Mr Weir said.

“Following further advice which I have received today from the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientific Adviser, I am recommending that pupils and teachers wear a face covering in corridors and other communal areas of post-primary schools from next week when schools return full-time. This updates the existing guidance on the use of face coverings in educational settings.

“The current public health advice is that the use of face coverings provides some benefits, however, it is not a replacement for frequent hand washing, social distancing where possible, covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and regular cleaning of surfaces."

The Education Minister said that evidence suggest a "relatively low" transmission in schools is relatively low compared to some other settings.

FÁILTE: Peter Weir receives a warm welcome at All Saints
FÁILTE: Peter Weir receives a warm welcome at All Saints

“My existing guidance on the reopening of schools already deals with the use of face coverings," he added.

Current guidance recommends that pupils wear a face covering on on all dedicated school transport including buses and taxis.

“In relation to communal areas in schools, the guidance already strongly encourages face coverings for activities that entail large numbers of staff or pupils within an enclosed space where social distancing is not possible," Mr Weir explained.

He said that "face coverings are not recommended as being compulsory" in schools due to existing "risk mitigations".

"However, staff and pupils may wish to use them during the routine school day and this is acceptable. Schools should also be aware that some persons (including some children) are exempt from wearing face coverings," the Education Minister continued.

“I will continue to keep all guidance in respect of education settings under review in light of the latest medical and scientific advice."