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Parents react to U-turn on face masks in schools

Secondary school pupils will continue to wear face masks in class for the foreseeable future.

Tensions ran high as parents reacted to the news face masks are to remain in schools.

Secondary school pupils will continue to wear face masks in class for the foreseeable future.

The announcement from the Scottish Government is thought to be in hope of more 12 to 15-year-olds being vaccinated.

Draft guidance last week stated many safety mitigations, including the wearing of masks and social distancing, would be scrapped following the October holidays.

However, existing measures will remain in schools “for now” following advice from senior clinicians, it has been confirmed.

A number of parents slammed the decision, saying it was unfair people could sit in pubs without a mask when their kids had to use one at school.

Others saw them as a necessary measure to reduce the spread.

Masks in schools but not pubs

One Press and Journal reader, Alison Stuart, said on Facebook: “I do think it is very unfair that kids have to sit in class with masks, but I can go to a pub and sit there without one.”

However, reader John Matheson said: “I don’t often agree with the SNP but this is totally the correct decision.”

He said Covid figures remained high and masks are “proven to reduce Covid spread.”

Steve Wilson said: “The experts advised for their removal. Why have experts and ignore them?”

In April 2020, national clinical director Professor Jason Leitch said masks were not the answer.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s ‘Good Morning Scotland’ programme: “The global evidence — and we’ve looked properly, I promise you — is that masks in the general population don’t work.”

Somerville ‘understands disappointment’

Secondary-aged pupils and staff in primary and secondary schools will have to wear face coverings in schools, including the classroom, communal areas or when moving around the building.

The guidance has been left unchanged following advice from senior clinicians who say there are encouraging signs.

Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “In recent weeks we have seen the previous sharp decline in Covid case numbers starting to level off. That is why we have decided to adopt a cautious approach and maintain safety mitigations for the time being.

“Progress with vaccinating 12 to 15-year-olds has been remarkable and is already over 40%. However, this was only rolled out a few weeks ago and allowing further time will mean that encouraging figure rises even higher.”

Ms Somerville added: “I fully understand that this will be disappointing news for some young people and their parents. But as has been the situation throughout, the safety of children and all education staff remains the overriding priority.

“There is no room for complacency and we must all continue to remain vigilant to reduce the spread of Covid.”

The education secretary had said in August that face coverings in classrooms would be dropped “as soon as possible”.

Boris Johnson scrapped the requirement for face masks in English schools in May.

Parents group: ‘Disgraceful U-turn’

Jo Bisset, organiser for parents group UFT Scotland, urged the Scottish Government to “reconsider” the guidance.

UFT Scotland organiser Jo Bisset said the Scottish Government has ‘capitulated’.

She added: “This is a disgraceful U-turn which will infuriate pupils and parents across the country.

“The Scottish Government needs to fully explain why it changed its mind, and whose input forced it to capitulate in this way.

“It certainly won’t have been based on evidence from England, which shows children there have been mask-free for months with no detriment to their health and wellbeing.

“Now we have a situation where children will have to spend more of their day in masks than almost any other section of society.”

Last week, however, the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) said it hoped mask wearing would remain in place until at least Christmas.

‘Infection more disruptive than masks’

And Aberdeenshire mum Helen Goss, a trustee of Long Covid Kids, said children remained vulnerable to the virus.

Ms Goss’ eight-year-old daughter Anna is still suffering the effects of long Covid.

The Westhill girl caught the virus in April 2020, during the first wave.

“The fact is, masks are scientifically proven to protect against airborne pathogens,” said Ms Goss.

“There are very few protections in schools against airborne infection at the moment, so it makes sense to wear masks.

“A lot of parents don’t realise what Covid can do. They’re not aware of the full consequences of infection.

“While for many children Covid might be a ‘minor sniffle’, for a large proportion that is not the case at all.

“New figures in the UK show that 1 in 7 will get long Covid after infection.”

She added: “Parents might feel it isn’t fair that their kids have to wear a mask in school when they can go to a pub or nightclub without one.

“But these people are double vaccinated. Only a small percentage of children over 12 have received the first vaccine.

“Kids don’t have that protection. And schools are huge drivers of infection.

“It begs the question why children aren’t wearing masks in primary schools.

“Covid infection and subsequent long Covid is far more disruptive to education than wearing a mask.”

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