Primary schools are now telling children as young as five to wear a face mask in classrooms despite official guidelines saying they don’t need to.
Teaching unions back the move but parents and charities insist they damage learning, while the government says only secondary school children will be expected to have face coverings where social distancing is not possible.
However, primary schools have begun to contact parents to tell them their children will need masks when they return on March 8.
Parents at Selsdon Primary school in Croydon, south London, have been told that children as young as five must have their face covered at all times apart from during sports lessons or when eating or drinking
Meanwhile, parents at Nascot Wood Junior School in Watford, were instructed that pupils must wear a ‘well-fitted’ face mask while in the classroom if they are unable to socially distance
Parents at Selsdon Primary school in Croydon, south London, have been told that children as young as five must have their face covered at all times apart from during sports lessons or when eating or drinking,
Headteacher Susan Papas said: ‘In order to be able to allow children to be able to play and socialise with the children in their bubble, we are asking that children from Year One to Year Six wear a face mask when in school.
‘They will be taught the safe way to wear face coverings and will be asked to remove them for PE lessons, when eating and when drinking.’
Meanwhile, parents at Nascot Wood Junior School in Watford, were instructed that pupils must wear a ‘well-fitted’ face mask while in the classroom if they are unable to socially distance.
This is despite official Department for Education guidance stating that primary school pupils are exempt from mask wearing.
Molly Kingsley, co-founder of UsForThem, parent campaign group, said ministers must ‘urgently’ clarify the position on face masks in schools.
Today, schools minister Nick Gibb acknowledged that it is ‘more challenging’ to teach with face masks, but he said wearing face coverings is ‘highly recommended’ for secondary school children.
He also appealed to parents to allow their older children to take part in regular voluntary rapid coronavirus tests when classrooms reopen from March 8.
He told Times Radio: ‘Of course we can’t make it mandatory on parents but we just hope that most parents will see the wisdom of testing their children twice a week.’
Over the first two weeks of term, secondary school and college pupils will be asked to take three Covid-19 tests on site and one at home. They will then be sent home-testing kits to do twice-weekly.
Asked whether it should be a case of ‘no test, no school’, Mr Gibb told LBC radio: ‘No, we want to make sure it is not compulsory in that sense, and they will need the permission of the parents.
‘In all these things, it is a balance of risk and just having anybody tested, frankly, and identifying asymptomatic cases is a bonus in terms of minimising the risk.’
He said he hopes that the vast majority of students will volunteer to use the lateral flow tests.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told a Downing Street press conference last night: ‘We are also now advising that face coverings should be worn in secondary school classrooms as well as in further and higher education settings unless social distancing can be maintained’
Children are not legally required to wear face masks in schools and should not be sent home if they refuse to wear one, government officials said last night. Pictured, pupils wearing masks at Moor End Academy in Huddersfield on September 11, 2020
Primary school children will not need to take a rapid coronavirus test when they return to class.
On face coverings, Mr Gibb told LBC: ‘It is more challenging to teach where you have masks on the children and on the teachers, but we have a new variant of this virus which is far more transmissible than the previous variant.’
Asked on BBC Breakfast whether secondary school pupils will have to wear face coverings, he said: ‘We are saying it is not mandatory for schools to have masks in classrooms but it is highly recommended because we want to do everything we can to reduce the risk of transmission in the school.’
Teachers are to take control in school exams free-for-all: Staff will award pupils’ A-level and GCSE grades this year as experts warn the policy undermines credibility and universities predict chaos on admissions
Teachers will have almost complete control over deciding the GCSE and A-level grades of their pupils this summer, it was announced last night.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said staff will also get to choose how they assess children – after exams were cancelled due to the pandemic.
Teachers can decide to rely on previous essays, coursework, mocks or any other type of classwork if they wish.
They can also choose to set their own ‘mini-exams’, either of their own making or using questions provided by exam boards – but they will not need to enforce exam conditions.
Grading decisions will only be altered by exam boards in rare cases where malpractice or questionable standards are exposed.
His comments come after the National Deaf Children’s Society warned that the Government’s recommendation for face coverings to be worn could have a ‘devastating’ effect on youngsters with hearing difficulties.
Parents have reacted angrily to the prospect of mask wearing in schools, with ‘hundreds’ gearing up to keep their children at home if children will be forced to cover their faces when they go back on March 8.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told a Downing Street press conference last night: ‘In line with public health guidance, we are also now advising that face coverings should be worn in secondary school classrooms as well as in further and higher education settings unless social distancing can be maintained.
‘Again, this is to help reduce transmission. The risk to children themselves is incredibly low. This is a temporary measure to support the return of schools and will be in place until Easter, when it is reviewed.’
However, Molly Kingsley, the co-founder of UsForThem, said that ‘hundreds’ of parents have contacted the parent campaign group to say they intend to keep their children at home because of the mask mandate.
She told the Telegraph: ‘It’s great that children will be back in school, but it should not be at any price – and certainly not at a price as grave as this.
‘Face masks are an untested intervention and one that many respected academics and doctors have raised serious concerns about from a psychological point of view but also due to the potential physical harm and the long-term effects of face coverings on brain development and educational attainment.’
Outlining the wearing of masks in schools, the Government’s Spring 2021 Covid-19 response document states: ‘The Government also recommends that the use of face coverings in Higher Education, Further Education and secondary schools is extended for a limited period to all indoor environments – including classrooms – unless 2m social distancing can be maintained.
‘Face coverings are now also recommended in early years and primary schools for staff and adult visitors in situations where social distancing between adults is not possible, for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas.
‘All children will once again be expected to attend school, as they were in the autumn term.’
A teacher wearing a face mask teaches Year 6 pupils in a classroom with other pupils participating by video conference at the College Francais Bilingue De Londres French-English bilingual school in north London on June 2, 2020
It comes as Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty insisted that the threat posed by coronavirus to children is ‘incredibly low’.
Reports at the weekend suggested Prof Whitty was opposing the ‘big bang’ return but he told a Downing Street press conference that he had ‘categorically denied’ the claim.
Setting out why he supports the return to classrooms next month, he said: ‘First thing is, it is absolutely universally accepted that there are huge advantages for children to be at school from a health point of view, mental and physical, as well as from educational and from a life course point of view.
‘Those are overwhelming, they are not in any dispute, everyone accepts that and if you keep children out of school, every single one of the children you keep out of school is disadvantaged.’
He continued: ‘The second point we made at that time which is still the case is the risk to children is incredibly low from going to school and indeed from catching Covid.
‘Covid, one of the few good things about Covid is the risk to children, whilst not zero, nothing in Covid the risks are zero, the risks are so much smaller than they are for adults and others.
‘Therefore we are confident that schools, given the huge benefits of schools, the very small residual risk is strongly in favour, from the child’s point of view, everything is strongly in favour of children, whether primary or secondary, of going to school and the data on that I think are unambiguous.’
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