Covid: Nicola Sturgeon keeps school face mask rules

Nicola Sturgeon has resisted calls for an easing of face mask requirements in Scottish classrooms.

In her latest Covid update to MSPs, the First Minister said the Government was “not recommending any immediate change” to its coronavirus safety guidance for schools and highlighted data showing case rates among the under-15s are rising. 

However, she also stressed the guidance was being kept under “close and regular review”.

Face masks are currently compulsory for all school staff and secondary pupils.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon told to drop classroom face mask rule

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that the Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues would be meeting on Tuesday.

“We will consider carefully any recommendations it makes and we will continue to seek its advice on issues such as groupings within schools and the requirement for secondary school pupils to wear face coverings,” she added.

“On the issue of face coverings, I know young people, like many adults, will want to see the back of them as soon as possible. But I also know that many young people understand and agree, especially when cases in the younger age group are rising, that face coverings do provide important protection.”

It comes after the Scottish Conservatives said they believed the time was right for SNP ministers to “end the mixed messaging coming out of the Scottish Government by listening to their advisors and ending the restriction immediately”.

The change has already been introduced south of the Border. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to begin lifting “Plan B” Covid rules also means masks will not be needed in school communal areas from Thursday.

HeraldScotland: Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross urged ministers to set a date for the removal of face masks in classrooms.Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross urged ministers to set a date for the removal of face masks in classrooms.

Commenting on the First Minister’s update, Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross said: “Throughout this pandemic, there has been agreement that children’s education must come first.

“But right now, adults can sit in workplaces and pubs without face masks, while young people in a classroom are still required to wear them.

“Advisors and experts are in agreement that they are no longer necessary. So what is Nicola Sturgeon waiting for? Why has the Scottish Government not set a date for the removal of masks in classrooms?

“Parents, pupils and teachers have been left in the dark once again.”

Oliver Mundell, Scottish Conservative Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, said on Monday: “The SNP cannot keep ignoring the weight of argument against face masks in classrooms.

“Education experts are clear that face masks in classrooms have a negative impact on learning, especially for those children with extra needs, and scientific experts are in agreement that it’s safe for them to go.

“So there is no excuse for this restriction remaining in place, and Nicola Sturgeon should lift it immediately.”

Ms Sturgeon’s Covid update is likely to anger some parent campaigners, who voiced their concerns last week.

READ MORE: Teacher confidence ‘collapsed during pandemic’

“It’s unfair on Scotland’s school children that they must continue to wear masks while their contemporaries in England can now get on without them,” said UFTScotland organiser Jo Bisset.

“This isn’t the first time restrictions have been more severe on young people here, and it’s not the first time rules have been tougher for kids than for adults.

“The Scottish Government has now belatedly admitted that the closure of schools does more harm than good, something parents across Scotland have been telling them for more than 18 months. They should now realise that the same applies to forcing children to wear masks all day.”

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