Mask Strike? English Schoolchildren Refusing to Wear Masks, Unions Complain

A used medical facemask hangs on a wood lecture chair in the empty classroom during the CO
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“Huge numbers” of children in the North of England have refused to take lateral flow tests before school and wear masks, trade unionists claim.

“Huge numbers” of pupils at six secondary schools in the North of England have refused to wear masks or take lateral flow tests at school according to Damian McNulty, a national executive member of the NASUWT (National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers) union.

McNulty also claimed that at one school alone in Lancashire only 67 children out of 1,300 were prepared to wear masks or take Covid tests.

The NASUWT spokesman also said that he believed there was likely to be similar patterns of children “railing against” authority across the country, the BBC reports.

While the pupils have worried teachers unions, they may not be in breach of the government’s latest guidelines for schools, which generally suggest that masks are merely recommended.

The government’s latest recommendations for able-bodied pupils are that masks should be worn in most school settings, such as when students are seated in the classroom, but this is not a legal requirement.

McNulty also highlighted that this rebellious behaviour from pupils could be a consequence of the increased presence of supply teachers in schools and children wanting to “push boundaries” with them.

This is somewhat ironic as teaching unions, including NASUWT, have repeatedly pushed for teachers to remain at home due to coronavirus fears, resulting in schools temporarily replacing them with supply teachers.

Since the announcement of the government’s advice, a study from the Department of Education has emerged which says masks can have a detrimental effect on education.

While the study says face coverings can be effective in “contributing to reducing transmission of COVID-19” in schools, it also found that “80 per cent of pupils reported” that masks “made it difficult to communicate” and 55 per cent felt wearing one “made learning more difficult”.

The report also showed that secondary school leaders and teachers corroborated their pupils’ findings. Almost all school teachers (94 per cent) believed that face coverings at school had “made communication between teachers and students more difficult”, and 59 per cent said masks have “made it a lot more difficult”.

Masks concealing a speaker’s lips were also found to lead “to lower performance, lower confidence scores, and increased perceived effort on the part of the listener”, which particularly has a detrimental effect on pupils with special needs.

However, despite the Department for Education’s findings, a Unison teaching union survey included in the report said that 71 per cent of school support staff believed “face coverings in secondary school classrooms are an important safety measure”.

Author of children’s book The Gruffalo and ex-teacher Julia Donaldson has criticised the government over their mask policy.

Speaking to The Times, Donaldson branded the government’s school mask guidelines as “dystopian” and “unacceptable”.

Donaldson also advised that “children are children for such a short time” so they shouldn’t be “sacrificed” to protect the country National Health Service (NHS).

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