Coronavirus: Research to be done into pupils' compulsory mask-wearing

The Scottish Government has agreed to carry out research into the impact wearing face coverings is having on school children.

S5 and S6 pupils wearing protective face masks during lessons.
S5 and S6 pupils wearing protective face masks during lessons.

The campaign group, UsForThem Scotland, has been told by government officials that a range of work is planned to assess the pros and cons of pupils wearing masks throughout the school day.

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Guidance demands pupils in the upper years of high schools must wear masks all day, although some councils have extended that to all levels of secondary pupils. However, there have been concerns about the impact on children with hearing impairments and learning disabilities.

In August, the organisation asked the Scottish Government to carry out proper analysis of such problems, and has now been told that assessment will be done.

Now a letter from the Directorate for Learning has confirmed it is carrying out a range of work on masks including commissioning a survey of secondary school pupils in January about their attitudes towards face masks and the wellbeing impacts of wearing them, supporting the Scottish Youth Parliament, YouthLink Scotland and Young Scot to deliver a “Lockdown Lowdown 2” survey, which will include “vulnerable groups” to explore views on face coverings, and working with Public Health Scotland on a survey of children under seven and the issue of face coverings.

The letter says: “We are regularly reviewing the existing and emerging evidence base on face coverings and other restrictions for young people. We are commissioning or supporting a number of surveys or focus groups which will add to the existing evidence base.

“As this evidence is collated and assessed over time, our expectation is that it will provide a useful basis on which to adjust and amend policy and guidance as appropriate."

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said: “The World Health Organisation have been very clear that when children are forced to wear masks, those in charge have to analyse the impact it has on them. We’ve campaigned for several weeks now for the Scottish Government to do exactly that, and it’s welcome that this step is now being taken.

“It’s not enough to simply force children to wear coverings and hope for the best. We know this can have a really negative impact on pupils, especially those with hearing difficulties and learning disabilities.”

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