‘They Inhibit Learning’: UK Defends Ending School Mask Mandates

LEWES, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 13: Zoe Billyard (mask) reacts after receiving her A Level results today at Lewes Old Grammar School on August 13, 2020 in Lewes, United Kingdom. Just over 35% of A level students in the UK have received one grade lower than their teacher predictions, with …
Photo by Andrew Hasson/Getty Images

While 14 U.S. states still mandate masks in schools, the UK’s Education Secretary has doubled down on the government’s decision to scrap face coverings in schools insisting that they “inhibit learning”.

Nadhim Zahawi, Britain’s Education Secretary has railed against masks in classrooms stating that they made it “much harder to communicate” and “much more difficult for children to learn”.

In an interview with Sky News Zahawi insisted that “masks in the classroom does inhibit learning”, and that Britain has now entered a “stage where we’ll probably be one of the first major economies in the world to transition this virus from pandemic to endemic”.

The remarks represent a considerable change in position for Zahawi, who as a government minister throughout the Coronavirus era was persistently in favour of mask mandates and was even critical when mask mandates were relaxed in July 2021. He said in 2021 that masks are still “expected” in “indoor enclosed spaces” even if not required by law.

The government’s official mask guidance for schools ended in Britain on the 27th of January 2022, where school children were no longer advised to wear them in communal school areas, after the classroom mandate ended on the 20th of January.

The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson justified this move by saying his cabinet had concluded after looking “at the data carefully” that masks were no longer necessary.

This decision from Johnson’s Conservative government was met with hostility from some, with teaching unions accusing the government of removing mask policies “prematurely” which they claim will leave “schools and colleges” exposed to “high case rates and severe educational disruption”.

The decision does however appear to be popular amongst school pupils, as prior to the announcement of masks no longer being required “huge numbers” of school kids reportedly refused to wear them in January – at one school only 67 out of 1,300 children agreed to mask up, it was claimed.

While England has begun to relax its coronavirus restrictions seeking a return to normality, across the pond, several U.S. states still demand children wear masks in schools, with the White House continuing to advocate for “masking in schools”.

In Illinois students have begun pushing back against the mask mandate, however, with around 75 pupils at Chicago’s Maine South High School staging an anti-mask march through their school, followed by a walkout on Tuesday.

Of the fourteen states and the District of Columbia that currently require masks in schools, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and Oregon’s authorities announced plans on Monday to end universal mask mandates in schools – more states are expected to follow in relaxing school mask mandates.

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