Masks 'not mandatory due to student anxiety'

Minister gives reason for advisory stance on masks in classrooms, which critics warn will result in 'anarchy'

Tes Reporter

Schools reopening: Face masks not mandatory for secondary students because of anxiety fears, says children's minister Vicky Ford

Children’s minister Vicky Ford this morning explained the reason why face masks are not being made mandatory in secondary school classrooms – because some students will be “very anxious and nervous" about wearing them.

Last week the government was accused of creating "mask anarchy" unless regulations on face coverings in schools were made clearer.

Warning: Schools face 'mask anarchy' without rule change

Schools reopening: Masks required in secondary classrooms

Advice: How to ensure students wear their masks in classrooms

Exclusive: Students allowed to break school mask rules

MPs also heard that many teachers are "worried" about a full return of schools, with some opposition MPs pressing the government to adopt a phased return in England.

Chair of the Commons Education Select Committee Robert Halfon warned that “enormous pressure” was being put on teachers because of the confusion over rules on mask-wearing, and said the government should “come down firmly on one side or another and provide clearly definitive regulations” to help teachers.

Schools reopening: Wearing of face masks 'strongly encouraged'

But speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ms Ford said mask-wearing was “strongly encouraged” rather than mandatory.

Asked whether schools where there is not much mask-wearing should close, she said: “No, I think that we should strongly encourage them to wear the masks. I think the vast majority of young people, they get this.

“But there will be some who will be very anxious and nervous about doing so and that’s why we understand that, and that is why we have not made it mandatory but we have strongly encouraged this.”

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