The government introduced new measures yesterday to slow the spread of the Omicron Covid variant, including the reintroduction of face covering rules. 

Face coverings are once again compulsory in England in shops and settings such as banks, post offices, hairdressers, and public transport, unless people are exempt. 

Schools were told pupils in Year 7 and above, teachers and visitors should wear face coverings in communal areas in schools, colleges and universities in England from Monday.

Nicholas Capstick, CEO of multi-academy trust The White Horse Federation and headteacher of Drove School, said the new recommendations would be enforced in the schools under his remit.

But he disagreed with the National Educational Union’s stance on extending mask-wearing to classrooms.

He told BBC Radio Wiltshire: “Berating doesn’t get you anywhere, it just puts people’s backs up. But giving some advice, some understanding of why we’re doing it and making sure they’re safe is important.

“That cheeky advice but also a non-compromising bit of advice says it in a nice way but it’s not for sale. Put your mask on. 

“Young people come into school, they go through small gates. Let’s put masks on then. 

“As you’re travelling around the school [with] small corridors; let’s put masks on then.

“In communal areas where they’re having lunch; let’s put masks on then.”
When you’re in the classroom and need real interaction, let’s withdraw masks and let’s have free-flow talking.

“Part of being in school is being sociable and that comes with a smile and a twinkle in the eyes. 

“The things masks do by their very nature are mask up.”

Dr Capstick revealed that in one of the trust’s schools, five out of seven staff members are off with Covid so the school was forced to close for a day and do a deep-clean.

He added: “I think we’re in a position even before the Omicron variant was identified where we were struggling in schools.”

Swindon Bus Company’s managing director Andrew Wickham told BBC Radio Wiltshire he was unsurprised by the new rules, but expressed concern that drivers would be put in a tricky position with enforcing them. 

He said: “I just hope people make the sensible public-spirited decision to look after themselves and look after other people and wear a face covering.

“If you can wear a face mask, please do because what we don’t want to do is put our drivers in the position of conflict.

“They’re doing a brilliant job and it’s a difficult job and it’s not fair for them to have to try to keep nagging people to put face coverings on.

“If you’re on the bus please do wear a face covering.”