The wearing of face masks in secondary school classrooms in England will not be required after 17 May, the government is expected to confirm.
Face coverings have been recommended since the return to school in March – but that will end as part of the phasing out of lockdown measures.
There have been concerns masks get in the way of communicating and learning.
But a group of scientists and teachers’ unions has argued masks should stay to “keep school students and staff safe”.
The government is also expected to confirm the return of students to university campuses from 17 May – although surveys suggest that in practice most students have already returned to their term-time addresses.
About half of students have been studying online since January – and they will be able to return to face-to-face teaching, although some courses might already have effectively stopped teaching by this stage of the university year.
When schools returned during last term face masks were expected to be worn in secondary schools, where social distancing was not possible – in a safety measure intended to be temporary.
The next stage of relaxing lockdown measures, to be announced on Monday, is likely to see the withdrawal of advice to wear masks in class, as part of a package of changes being implemented from 17 May.
Schools minister Nick Gibb has already signalled to the education select committee that if “the roadmap is going in the direction that we expect it to go in, then we hope that face masks will not be necessary after that date”.
Although there could be some more details about wearing masks in other areas of school, outside of lessons.
Geoff Barton, leader of the ASCL head teachers’ union, said: “It is obviously better for communication and learning if we don’t need to have children wearing face masks in classrooms.
“But we know there will be concerns among some staff and parents about the risk of infection,” he said.
The heads’ leader said any change should be kept under review, depending on the safety advice, and that it was vital that the decision on masks should have “clarity” so that schools are not facing “grey areas left to negotiate”.
But a group of scientists and unions, including the National Education Union, last week wrote to the Department for Education to say they were “extremely concerned” at the prospect of face coverings no longer being required in secondary schools.
They argued that masks were still a required safety measure in shops and public transport and there was a lack of evidence that it was time to withdraw their use in schools.
The letter, signed by more than 20 scientists and health experts, suggested that a change in wearing masks in schools should not be considered until the next stage of ending the lockdown, due on 21 June.