PPE, Face Coverings and Face Masks for Schools & Education

As from 1 September new advice will apply to the use of face coverings by staff and pupils in UK schools, and to those young adults and learners in further education.

The World Health Organisation advise that “children aged 12 and over should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults, in particular when they cannot guarantee at least a 1-metre distance from others and there is widespread transmission in the area.

Schools and colleges will now have the discretion to require face coverings in indoor communal areas if social distancing cannot be safely managed, but what’s the best type of face masks for schools, for both teachers and children? There’s lots of questions surrounding wearing face masks in schools, and the different types of face coverings on the market.

We have tried to answer some of the questions that schools and parents may have below.

What PPE Do Schools Need?

In addition to face coverings and face masks, Personal protective equipment (PPE) required by schools and education settings may include fluid resistant surgical face masks, face visors, thermometers, disposable gloves and aprons.

The PPE that Sera sells is intended primarily for medical purposes,  but is widely used in other industries such as construction and suitable for school, colleges and educational settings where PPE is required.

Can pupils and staff wear a homemade face mask?

Homemade face masks can be worn in schools, but these can obviously vary a lot. Emerging evidence suggests that the risk of transmission may be reduced by using thicker fabrics or multiple layers. Ideally they should include at least two layers of fabric (the World Health Organisation recommends three depending on the fabric used).

Homemade masks may well offer some protection against large fluid droplets,  but are unlikely to protect against smaller particles or bacteria, whereas medical masks have specific properties defined by international standards.  

So, is a medical mask going to be better than a homemade one? Most probably yes.

Washable Face Masks For Children

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What are the different types of face masks?

In addition, to homemade face masks, there are medical face masks, designed to meet specific  standards of performance.

Medical masks protect the wearer for large air borne particles and also others from the wearer’s secretions such as saliva. Respirator masks protect from much smaller particles including fluids. 

Medical face masks have European Union standards (Types I, II and IIR) in order of increasing protection, therefore Type II has a better level of filtration than type I.  Type IIR offers further against fluid penetration.  


What type of masks should be worn in schools?

National governments including the British government issue guidance on the use of PPE including in relation to Corona virus. The PPE recommended depends on the context is which it is used e.g. the recommendation for someone working in a hospital emergency department differs from that for a passenger using public transport.

These recommendations refer to PPE that conforms to certain international standards. As a supplier, we sell products that conform to those standards. We sell quality products that adhere to standards; health professionals and governments are the ones that tell you when and where they should be used.

Are all washable face masks the same?

Washable face masks can be homemade or purchased and should be regularly washed by following the washing instructions for the fabric. You can use your normal detergent and wash and dry it with other laundry.

This washable, reusable face covering has completed European standards testing to EN14683:2019 Type I. Unlike homemade face masks and coverings this product is proven to filter 95% of bacteria whilst still being breathable. It’s made with Bac-Pure technology world class antimicrobial solutions and can be washed up to 50 times at 40°C and still maintain its filtration efficiency.

Whatever washable face mask you use, if it becomes damaged, you must throw it away.

Do you need to wear face masks in primary schools?

Children in primary schools are not required to wear a face mask, but where social distancing is not possible in indoor areas outside of classrooms between members of staff or visitors i.e. in staffrooms, head teachers have the discretion to decide whether to ask staff or visitors to wear, or agree to them wearing face coverings in these circumstances.

How should you wear face masks correctly?

How should you wear face masks correctly?

It is vital that face coverings are worn correctly and that clear instructions are provided to staff, children and young people in schools and educational settings.

A face mask should cover your nose and mouth and fit comfortably and securely against the side of the face, secured with ties or ear loops.

Safe wearing of face mask requires hands to be cleaned before and after touching the covering, either washing with soap and water for 20 seconds or using hand sanitiser. This should therefore happen whenever putting on or taking off face masks and only touching the straps, ties or clips.  If a face masks becomes damp, it should not be worn and the face covering should be replaced.

You should avoid touching the part of the face covering in contact with your mouth and nose, as it could be contaminated with the virus.  Never share face masks and do not give it to someone else to use.

Further advice on wearing face coverings can be found here on the government website.

Are there any exemptions for wearing face masks in schools?

Some individuals are exempt from wearing face coverings. For example people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability, or if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate. The same exemptions will apply in education settings, and we would expect teachers and other staff to be sensitive to those needs.


How should face masks be stored and disposed of at school?

To store face masks safely, they should be stored in individual, sealable plastic bags between use. Make sure the face covering only touches clean surfaces, not desks or surfaces other people may have touched.

When finished with a washable face mask, store reusable face coverings in a plastic bag until you have an opportunity to wash them. If using a disposable face mask, dispose of it in a waste bin, not a recycling bin.

What are FFP masks?

FFP stands for Filtering Face Piece and these are respirator masks, available in ascending order of protection, FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3.