This week the issue of face coverings in schools was raised in the Scottish Parliament by local MSP for Dumbarton, Vale of Leven and Helensburgh, Jackie Baillie. This was following concerns raised with the MSP by parents about children not being required to wear face coverings in school.
The MSP raised the issue with the Cabinet Secretary for Education, John Swinney, and pointed out that children are being required to wear face coverings on public transport, in shops, churches, museums and libraries, but not in schools. The Cabinet Secretary for Education was asked in light of this, whether he would review the guidance, particularly for older children, and consider a requirement to wear face masks in schools.
The Cabinet Secretary confirmed that he remained open minded to considering the requirement to wear facemasks in schools, but said this would have to be balanced with the medical advice and the impact it would have on their educational experience.
The Cabinet Secretary, in a statement to parliament on school return said that as of the 3 August, less than 1% of cases of Covid-19 in Scotland had involved children aged under 15 and around 2% involved children and young people aged under 20. In addition to this there have been no cases linked to any community school hubs which have been open throughout the epidemic.
In relation to face masks in schools the Education Secretary said that there are some studies which suggest that given the low risk of transmission by children, the detrimental developmental impacts of extended face covering use may be greater than the potential protective benefit.
He also advised that the issue would be looked at again by the Education Recovery group which the Scottish Government has set up.
Commenting Jackie Baillie MSP said:
“I understand the concerns and worry many parents have about their children returning to school, it is understandable that many are confused about their children being required to wear face coverings outside of school but not in them.
“The Cabinet Secretary has said that the decision to wear face coverings has to be made based on the latest medical advice. But it’s also essential that parents are provided with the reassurance they need that it is safe for their children to be in school.
“I welcome the Cabinet Secretary’s commitment to remaining open minded about face coverings in school and look forward to it being discussed by the Education Recovery Group when it next meets. It’s vital that clear guidance is issued and that the concerns of parents are addressed.”
NOTES TO EDITOR:
- Copy of Jackie’s question and the Education Secretary’s response as taken from the Scottish Parliament Official Record of Portfolio Questions on Finance on Thursday 13th August 2020 below:
I welcome the additional mitigation measures for teachers and other school staff.
I have been contacted by a parent who is concerned about face coverings. She has two children, aged 14 and 17, who are required to wear face coverings on public transport and in shops, churches, museums and libraries, but not in school, where they are in daily contact with many people. Will the cabinet secretary review the guidance, particularly for older children, and consider a requirement to wear face masks?
We have had specialist advice from the expert advisory group on that issue, and the position that is set out in the guidance reflects that advice. That said, as I said to Iain Gray, my mind is far from closed on the question. I appreciate the specific contrast that Jackie Baillie referred to in her question, between the requirements outwith schools and the position in schools. My mind is open on the question.
As I highlighted in my statement, use of face coverings in schools might well inhibit young people’s ability to have a strong educational experience, but that has to be counterbalanced by the clinical advice that we receive. However, my mind is far from closed on the question, and I think that the education recovery group will return to it in its subsequent discussions.