Last reviewed 4 January 2022

As pupils return to the classroom this week, the Department for Education (DfE) is promising that thousands of new air filters and further temporary measures will be introduced to protect face-to-face education and minimise disruption.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said that an additional 7000 air cleaning units will be provided to early years, schools and colleges to improve ventilation in teaching spaces.

He stressed that the aim was to strike the balance between managing transmission risk while reducing disruption to in-person learning.

To maximise the number of children in school and college for the maximum amount of time, and in light of the Omicron variant surge, the Government is temporarily recommending that face coverings are worn in classrooms and teaching spaces for students in year 7 or above.

The advice is short-term only to support pupils and teachers as they return to schools this term and will be in place until 26 January, when Plan B regulations are currently scheduled to expire, at which point it will be reviewed.

Mr Zahawi said: “There is no doubt that the Omicron variant presents challenges but the entire education sector has responded with a Herculean effort, and for that I thank each and every one of you. The Prime Minister and I have been clear that education is our number one priority. These measures will bolster our support schools as we do everything in our power to minimise disruption.”

In another temporary measure from the start of January, Ofsted will not ask inspectors who are also school, college and early years leaders to undertake inspections, so they can focus on their leadership responsibilities.

The standards body has already confirmed that it will not be inspecting secondary schools during the first week of term in January, as schools undertake on-site pupil testing.