Teachers have called on the government to urgently review guidance around pupils wearing face masks in school, after a new WHO document recommended some children aged six and above wear coverings depending on the level of risk involved.
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation wrote to An Taoiseach Micheál Martin asking for clarification regarding face coverings in primary and special schools on the back of the new international health recommendations.
Three weeks ago, the INTO sought clarity from Minister Foley and Minister Donnelly on face masks and what the HSE’s approach would be should a pupil or teacher test positive for Covid.
INTO reminded the Taoiseach that as one hundred children have tested positive in the last fortnight, ‘it is vital that priority access to testing and tracing be made available to everyone in the education sector’.
For children between six and 11 years of age, a risk-based approach should be applied to the decision to use of a mask.
This approach should take into consideration:
- intensity of transmission in the area where the child is and updated data/available evidence on the risk of infection and transmission in this age group;
- social and cultural environment such as beliefs, customs, behaviour or social norms that influence the community and population’s social interactions, especially with and among children;
- the child’s capacity to comply with the appropriate use of masks and availability of appropriate adult supervision;
- potential impact of mask wearing on learning and psychosocial development; and additional specific considerations and adaptions for specific settings such as households with elderly relatives, schools, during sport activities or for children with disabilities or with underlying diseases.
INTO says that it is aware of a number of members whose health is at high risk and who have multiple underlying conditions.
“In a grossly unfair move, the teachers’ occupational health service Medmark has advised that members with such conditions should return to school,” they said.