Scottish Tories call for no more masks in schools

The party says face masks in school are ‘no longer a necessity’ – even in communal areas

Emma Seith

 Scottish Tories call for ‘no more masks in school’

The Conservatives are calling on the Scottish government to remove the requirement to wear face coverings, even in communal areas, ahead of the new school term.

This week, it emerged that Scottish government advisers believe face coverings “should be removed in classrooms when possible.”

Minutes of a meeting of the Scottish government Advisory Sub-Group on Education from late June, and published on Monday, indicate that the group discussed that face mask use in classrooms should be ended once teachers are double jagged – but the minutes suggested that face coverings should remain in use in communal areas.

Background: When will Covid-19 rules ease in Scottish schools?

News: Vaccinating teens would have been ‘very controversial’

Vaccine: 85% of Scotland’s teachers to be jagged by next term

The Scottish Conservatives, however, believe that even in areas such as corridors, masks should no longer be required.   

Previously, on 14 July, the Conservatives also said the government should end self-isolation rules for children before the start of the new school term.

Under current plans, children identified as close contacts of a positive case will continue having to self-isolate for 10 days.

The government has said it will be providing an update on its expectations regarding the rules on mitigations like face coverings and self-isolation for the coming school year next week.

Shadow education secretary Oliver Mundell said: “Young people have already faced a year of upheaval and disrupted education. They deserve a return to normality as soon as possible.

“The success of Scotland and the UK’s vaccine scheme means that face masks in schools are no longer a necessity, as the government’s advisers have suggested.

“Scotland’s schools must be at the front of the queue for the relaxation of restrictions. Protecting young people’s education should be a top priority for the SNP government.”

Mr Mundell added: “We firmly believe the public health data now supports a return to normality in schools by removing the requirement for face masks and ending the need for children to self-isolate for 10 days.

“Parents, pupils and teachers are waiting for answers on what rules will be in place. We should put restoring Scotland’s schools first and give children back a normal learning experience again.”

Staff and pupils in schools in England have not been required to wear face masks since mid-May. Scottish secondary pupils and teachers were, however, obliged to wear masks right up to the summer break, which started at the end of June.

The first minister Nicola Sturgeon has also made it clear that even after 9 August – the date by which the Scottish government plans to return to “almost complete normality” – it is “probable” that face coverings will be retained in “certain settings”.

The EIS teaching union has urged caution when it comes to mitigations in schools, “especially given the record levels of pupil infection being seen in the final week of term”. 

It says some mitigations – including effective ventilation, good hygiene regimes and “potentially masks in communal areas” – should remain in place, “especially if this is the norm outside of schools”. 

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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