Weekly Poll – Face Covering Guidance in Schools (Week Beginning 8 March 2021)

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue.  For the week beginning 8 March 2021, we asked a question about face coverings in schools

Results

Do you agree with updated guidance which requires all secondary school pupils to wear face coverings in school (unless exempt due to a disability or health condition)?

  • YES – 71% (49 respondents)
  • NO – 29% (20 respondents)

Comments

We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Supportive of Updated Guidance

The majority of respondents are supportive of the updated guidance which requires all secondary pupils to wear face coverings (unless exempt due to a disability or health condition) in classrooms, communal areas and when moving around the school building. Respondents recognised the importance of taking all the necessary precautions to ensure a safe return to in-person learning for staff and pupils.

“So many kids in close proximity, I think they should wear face coverings to protect themselves and others.”

“My child is in S4 so has been wearing a mask in school since the legislation was changed. They all grumbled but it actually very quickly becomes a habit, sadly. The kids need to be back in education so if this is the measure that enables that, it is a small price to pay.”

“I agree with the new guidance. The school not only has a duty of care to the pupils but also to all the teaching and support staff within the school environment.”

Exemptions

There was recognition for pupils who are exempt from wearing face coverings due to a disability or health condition. Respondents reflected on the abuse that people who are exempt have received for not wearing face coverings in public places, and how similar incidents could manifest in schools with exempt pupils being subject to bullying. It is vital for schools to raise awareness of face covering exemptions.

“Coverings will keep children safe, but we need more information shared in schools about exemptions.”

“I think it’s a good idea for children to wear a face covering, but obviously not if you need an exemption because of a disability or health condition.”

“I have an exemption card and you still get abuse and i am an adult and find it difficult so how will a child cope as school bullying is bad enough.”

“If pupils cannot wear a face covering, they should not be vilified.”

It is important to recognise that not everyone can wear a face covering. Face covering exemptions are in place for pupils with a health condition or disability that would cause difficulty, pain or severe distress or anxiety to the wearer. At Disability Equality Scotland we are distributing the Scottish Government face covering exemption card for people exempt due to a disability or a health condition. You do not need to provide written proof that you are exempt, but if it would make you feel more safe and confident in public and when accessing and using public spaces and services you can request a face covering exemption card. Call 0800 121 6240 (Open 10am-3pm, Monday-Friday) Or request a face covering exemption card online: https://exempt.scot

Communication

Respondents also raised concerns about the impact of face coverings on pupils with hearing impairments. Current guidance states that you can temporarily remove a face covering if you are communicating with someone else who relies on lip reading and facial expressions to communicate.

“It will have a huge, negative impact on our deaf children and others with sensory and communication barriers. Exemptions need to be better & clearer for them and adults in the general world!”

“If you have a hearing Impairment then the guidance should be relaxed to lip read.”

“I agree only as a very temporary measure. This is not normal human behaviour (covering our faces) and impacts on communication for everyone, but disproportionately for people with communication difficulties or disabilities.”

Extend Guidance

Some respondents believed that the guidance should be extended to pupils of all ages, including primary school age. In addition, it was suggested that face coverings should be worn by younger people when socialising outside of school.

“Pupils of all ages (primary and secondary) including students of colleges and universities should be wearing face coverings at all times (obviously unless there are personal exceptions). Not just in class or lectures, but in corridors, in the gym, in all communal areas, whilst participating in sports, while socialising, on transport, in fact anywhere where they are in potential close contact (irrespective of social distancing), in the confines of school/college rooms, corridors, etc. Schools, colleges, universities are notorious “petri dishes” for anything infectious”

“Why stop at secondary schools, why not primary school children as well?”

“I feel that all children should also wear face coverings when outside the home, when socialising with other children from other households or when involved in any social situation!”

Conclusion

In conclusion, the majority of disabled people support the updated guidance for all secondary school pupils to wear face coverings in schools. Respondents recognised the importance of the measure to ensuring a safe return to in-person learning for staff and pupils. It is vital that schools are aware of the exemptions that are in place, for pupils unable to wear a face covering due to a disability or health condition. This extends to ensuring that pupils that are exempt are not singled-out and bullied for not wearing a face covering.

Disability Equality Scotland, March 2021