Covid Scotland: Use of face masks in secondary schools should be regularly reviewed, say parent representatives

The use of face masks in secondary schools should be reviewed on a regular basis, parent representatives have said.

Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 2:51 pm

Margaret Wilson, chair of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, said the body did not support the continued use of face coverings in classrooms.

It came as MSPs were told the Omicron wave led to 5 per cent of teachers being absent at one point.

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Photo: Lisa Ferguson

Holyrood's education, children and young people committee heard this had a knock-on effect on the quality of education.

Scottish Tory MSP Oliver Mundell asked about the "indefinite use" of face coverings in secondary schools.

Responding, 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."

She said parents had different views on the issue, but added: "We do represent a wide range of views, but we certainly don't support the continued use of them.

"We would obviously want to hear, and we have asked for evidence on, why they need to be used.”

But Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, said: "I'm not hearing a great deal from pupil representatives or young people about face coverings being a huge barrier.

"Yes, they are of course a barrier for some individual pupils and in some circumstances or subjects.

"But the key point is this has been part of the pandemic response and it's been a response to advice from the scientific subgroup and others, and I would be keen to hear their advice, which will inform any change to the guidance, not just in relation to face coverings but in relation to all mitigations.

Elsewhere, Douglas Hutchison, president of the Association of Directors of Education and executive director of education at Glasgow City Council, said staff absences detracted from what teachers could offer.

He said: “The quality of learning and teaching is impacted, regardless of the total number of staff absent, because it has a knock-on effect across the school.”

Mr Hutchison said he believed around 5 per cent of staff were absent at one point purely for coronavirus reasons.