Parents at Selsdon Primary and Nursery School in South East England have been told that children as young as five years old should wear a face mask at all times except during sports lessons or when eating or drinking.
The school's executive headteacher, Susan Papas, explained that the use of masks allows students to play safely with others. She added that students will be taught the safe way of wearing face masks. The guidance will apply to students from Year One to Year Six, The Telegraph first reported.
Papas added that they had introduced similar measures for the children of school staff who had been coming in to work even during lockdown. She said enforcing the measures has been "very successful" and that children quickly became comfortable with the face masks and were still able to socialize with their peers as normal.
Meanwhile, parents at Nascot Wood Junior School in Watford, Hertfordshire have been told that their children will need to wear a "well-fitted" face mask in the classroom. The school said the classrooms do not allow enough room for the children to safely practice social distancing.
The school said mask-wearing was not mandatory but claimed that their "vigilant approach" likely had a role in keeping the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the school community low.
The guidance from the schools came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed his lockdown exit strategy on Monday, Feb. 22. Johnson had said that secondary school students should wear face masks where it is not possible for students to safely practice social distancing.
Meanwhile, official guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) says that primary school students don't need to wear face masks in the classroom. But Schools Minister Nick Gibb reiterated that wearing face masks is "highly recommended" for secondary school students. He also asked parents to allow their children to take part in regular voluntary rapid coronavirus tests beginning March 8.
Teaching unions backed the move to require primary school students to wear masks. But parents and advocacy groups pushed back, insisting that the masks hinder learning.
Molly Kingsley, co-founder of the advocacy group UsForThem, asked ministers to clarify the advisory on mask-wearing in schools. She said the conflicting advisories show why such measures should be treated cautiously.
"Is this really what we want for children?" she asked. UsForThem, a community of parents, has been urging the government to reopen schools immediately but safely. They believe children should be in school and, as such, support the vast majority of precautionary hygiene measures proposed by the DfE and adopted by schools.
Kingsley also asked the government to reconsider its decision to require masks for secondary school students. She argued that face masks are an "untested intervention," one that scholars and doctors have raised very serious concerns about due to their long-lasting effects on children's learning and communication.
"[It] should have never been rolled out without proper evaluation and it must now be reversed."
Meanwhile, a DfE spokesman reiterated that face masks should only be worn by staff and adult visitors if social distancing is not possible. For example, staff and visitors should wear face masks when walking along corridors and moving around in communal areas where students are also present. And while masks are strongly encouraged in secondary schools, they are not legal requirements. Students must not be "denied education" for non-compliance. (Related: Top 10 hypocritical SCHOOL RULES during Covid.)
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