Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Students don’t have to wear masks anymore – but did they ever?

A face mask on a chair in an empty school classroom
Face masks in schools weren't as mandatory as we thought.

Local authorities have revealed that there were no punishments for students who didn’t wear a face mask in school.

Instead, schools simply reminded students of the health and safety guidance and encouraged them to follow it. That’s because wearing a mask in Scottish schools was non-statutory guidance and not a legal requirement.

Councils and teachers said that noncompliance was never enough of an issue to require punishments.

That lack of consequence might suggest that students had a choice. But that wasn’t the impression of students, parents or those of us on the outside.

Students tend to see school policies as non-negotiable, without quibbling over semantics.

The head of a parents’ group that long opposed masking said that students felt so coerced into compliance that punishments were irrelevant.

We’ll tell you what the councils had to say. But students at different schools don’t always have the same experience, and we want to know what it was like at your school.

What’s a requirement and what’s guidance?

The recent announcement that schools could drop their mask requirements triggered some confusion among parents.

On April 18, the Scottish Government said it was ending all legal requirements for face masks.

But most councils stuck to the terminology that they had used throughout the pandemic. They said they would encourage–but not require–students to wear masks.

So that raised the question: Did schools ever require students to wear face masks?

Students supported, not punished

A spokesman for the Western Isles Council said that schools had very few issues with students not wearing masks and put no consequences in place.

A Moray Council spokesman said that schools encouraged students to wear face masks, and issued reminders to those who didn’t.

Face masks on students in a school hallway

He said that schools were following guidance from the Scottish Government.

“The guidance made it clear that pupils were not to be sanctioned in any way for not adhering to guidance and that each school continued to support and encourage agreed processes.”

Government guidance has since been updated to reflect changes in the nation’s Covid policies.

But a Scottish Government spokeswoman confirmed that the government never imposed punishments for students not wearing masks.

“It is for schools to decide how they manage any issues around non-compliance.”

An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman said there were no consequences in city schools. Instead, they reminded students about the national guidance.

One Aberdeenshire head teacher said that her school had no breaches of Covid restrictions. The majority of students followed mask guidance, she said.

“In school, we would not issue a consequence for this. Actually, most pupils were very ‘compliant’ about it.”

Students had a complicated relationship with masks

Some students who spoke to us said that they and their classmates had come to feel safer with their masks on. Even with the difficulties they created, masks formed a sort of social buffer that helped them through the day.

Still, many were happy to see the policy come to an end.

Despite most councils saying that students were content to follow the rules, it isn’t always easy to distinguish between requirements and suggestions in schools.

The power dynamics between students and teachers can make the differences between laws, policies and guidance murky at best.

Compliance or coercion?

Parent group UFTScotland advocated against masks in schools throughout the pandemic. They argued that they were detrimental to learning, mental health and social development.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UFTScotland
Jo Bisset, organiser for UFTScotland.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UFTScotland, said that freedom from consequence didn’t mean freedom of choice.

“It was never a legal requirement, it was always what they would call guidance. But the way in which schools treated the mask policy was as if it were a legal requirement.

“If you asked most parents and pupils, they would have thought it was a legal requirement.”

She added: “Schools have become Covid coercive environments.”

Was there a choice about face masks in your school?

Masks were a critical and controversial aspect of Scotland’s Covid response from the start of the pandemic.

So with councils saying that school mask policies were never legal requirements, we want to know what your child’s experience was like.

Read more from the Schools & Family team

Autism investigation: The north-east parents taking legal action to get their child an education

Emerging from the pandemic: Will school ever be the same again?

Survey suggests ‘things are getting worse’ for Scotland’s LGBT youth

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]

Conversation

[[title_reg]]

Please enter the name you would like to appear on your comments. (It doesn’t have to be your real name - but nothing rude please, we are a polite bunch!) Use a combination of eight or more characters that includes an upper and lower case character, and a number.

By registering with [[site_name]] you agree to our Terms and Conditions and our Privacy Policy

Or sign up with

Facebook Google

[[content_reg_complete]]

[[title_login]]

Or login with

Forgotten your password? Reset it

[[title]]