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.

Row over need for face masks in Scottish schools after rules scrapped in England

Schools could be restricted again.

Conservative calls to scrap mandatory masks in Scotland’s secondary schools were disputed by teaching unions in a row over the timetable for easing restrictions.

Nicola Sturgeon was begged to relax Covid measures in classrooms as she confirmed other virus restrictions would be eased from January 24.

The first minister defended her cautious approach in Holyrood before Westminster confirmed on Wednesday face coverings were being ditched down south.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has urged the SNP to follow suit, while the leader of a school parent group said she wants to see them go as well.

But teaching unions resist the pressure, saying masks are an effective way to keep Covid transmission down.

‘Strong evidence needed to scrap face masks’

The EIS teaching union said compulsory coverings had proven “invaluable” so far and “strong evidence” would be needed for them to change their stance.

General secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Any review of current mitigations is entirely dependent on the level of Covid infections being experienced in schools and communities.

“Given the current high levels, the retention of the pre-summer mitigations has proven to be invaluable and there would need to be strong evidence before any change should be considered.”

Margaret Wilson, who chairs the National Parent Forum of Scotland, told the Holyrood education committee that parents are split on the issue.

She revealed some mums and dads want stronger protections in place, while others want restrictions in schools scrapped entirely.

We don’t support the continued use of face masks.

– Margaret Wilson, National Parent Forum of Scotland chair

But she added that the parent group no longer backs them – and warned schoolkids face some of the harshest measures in the country with other curbs being eased.

Ms Wilson said: “We don’t support the continued use of face masks. We would be asking for it to be reviewed on a regular basis.

“There’s not a clear consensus on the use of them with parents. Some parents don’t want any mitigations in school whereas some of them want every mitigation, so we do represent a wide range of views, but we certainly don’t support the continued use of them.

“We have asked for evidence why they need to be used. It was in our feedback this week for the Covid-19 Recovery Group.”

The SNP were criticised earlier this month over their approach to schools with demands for improved safety.

It was claimed the Scottish Government must do more to improve ventilation in classrooms.

Nicola Sturgeon later confirmed schools would be given an extra £5 million to help improve airflow during lessons.

‘Bottom of the pile’

During a parliament meeting, Tory MSP Oliver Mundell claimed education was being left at “the bottom of the pile” as other Covid rules are relaxed.

But a second teaching union said they would back measures currently in place for the “foreseeable future”.

A spokesperson for NASUWT teaching union said: “We support the recommended mitigaton measures to stop the spread of the virus in schools.

“A number of scientists have already cast doubt on the wisdom of the decision in England to remove the need for masks or face coverings.

We would argue for the retention of all mitigation measures in Scottish schools for the foreseeable future.

– NASUWT spokesperson

“Though positive case numbers may be dropping generally, this does not extend to many children of school age, where case numbers remain high.

“In these circumstances, we would argue for the retention of all mitigation measures in Scottish schools for the foreseeable future.”

Former Scottish Lib Dem boss Willie Rennie said: “We want to see the end of mark wearing in schools as soon as possible but teachers, staff and pupils need to feel safe and they must approve of any change in policy.

“Teachers overwhelmingly support the requirement to wear face masks at present.”

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]

More from the Press and Journal Politics team

More from the Press and Journal