Face coverings to be mandatory on all school transport for post primary children
The wearing of face coverings on all dedicated school buses and public transport will be mandatory for all post-primary children when schools reopen next week. Currently, it is mandatory for passengers aged over 13 to wear a face covering on public transport and Department of Education guidance strongly recommends that all pupils should wear a face covering on all buses, trains or taxis for the journey to school. Those aged 12 and under and/or those using a dedicated home to school transport vehicle are not required to do so.
Education Minister, Peter Weir said:
“Principals and school staff have been working tirelessly to keep schools safe for pupils and, their efforts have ensured the level of transmission in schools remains low. However, the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in the community is something we all must seek to address.
“The Public Health Agency has recommended that my Department strengthens the requirements around the wearing of face coverings on home-to-school transport. I have also had very positive discussions with the Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon, on this issue and she too supports the need to ensure all post primary children wear face coverings on both dedicated school transport and public transport.
“Following agreement by the Executive today, I have asked officials to amend the current regulations to make the wearing of face coverings on both dedicated school transport and public transport mandatory for all post-primary children”
The new regulations will not apply to pupils who are exempt from wearing a face covering.
Concluding Peter Weir said:
“We all can help reduce the spread of Covid-19. As schools prepare to re-open next week after the extended closure, I want to ask parents and carers to ensure their children have face coverings with them at all times and have a bag to store them safely when not in use. Encourage your child to practice social distancing and good hand hygiene as far as possible and advise them not to eat or share food on transport.
"Parents and carers can also play their part by taking some simple steps such as not congregating outside schools gates when they are dropping children off, limit your contact with others, always wear a face covering and ensure you are practising social distancing.”
The current requirement for passengers over 13 on public transport vehicles, including buses, trains and the Strangford ferry, is to wear a face covering. This is detailed in The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 as laid before the Assembly on 24 July 2020. These regulations provide for an exemption in paragraph 4 (2) for those using a school transport service and also for children under the age of 13.
Children and young people with special educational needs are not required to wear a face covering if they cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of any disability or cannot do so without severe distress.The current Department of Education guidance states that it is strongly recommended that all pupils, regardless of age, should wear a face covering on all buses, trains or taxis for the journey to school where it is appropriate for them to do so and they are able to handle them as directed.