Exclusive: Primary schools tell children as young as five to wear face masks in the classroom

Camilla Turner
·4-min read
 A teacher holds a creative writing class at Roath Park Primary School while wearing a face mask in Cardiff, Wales - Getty
A teacher holds a creative writing class at Roath Park Primary School while wearing a face mask in Cardiff, Wales - Getty

Primary schools are now telling children to wear face masks in the classroom, The Telegraph can reveal.

Ministers have been urged to “urgently” clarify that masks are not only “unnecessary” for young children but could in fact cause a range of potential harms.

It comes after the Prime Minister announced on Monday that secondary school students should wear masks in the classroom when they return if it is not possible for them to keep two metres apart.

Official guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) states that children in primary schools do not need to wear masks.

But primary headteachers have already started to write to parents this week telling them that children will need to use face coverings when they return to the classroom on March 8.

Parents at Selsdon Primary school in Croydon, south London, have been told that children as young as five should wear a face mask at all times apart from during sports lessons or when eating or drinking.

Susan Papas, the school’s executive headteacher, said: “In order to be able to allow children to be able to play and socialise with the children in their bubble, we are asking that children from Year One to Year Six wear a face mask when in school.

“They will be taught the safe way to wear face coverings and will be asked to remove them for PE lessons, when eating and when drinking.”

She said these measures had already been introduced for the children of key workers who have been coming to school during lockdown, adding that it has been “very successful”.

Ms Papas explained that children have “quickly become comfortable with this and it has meant that they have been able to socialise with their peers more easily”.

Meanwhile, parents at Nascot Wood Junior School in Watford, Hertfordshire were told that children will need to wear a “well-fitted” face mask while in the classroom if there is not space to socially distance.

“We request that children wear a well-fitted face mask whilst in the classroom, as the classrooms do not allow adequate social distancing,” the school said.

They added the face mask policy was already in place for vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers who have been coming to Nascot Wood Junior School since January, and it has been managed “very well indeed” so far.

The school explained that masks are “not mandatory” but said they believe that their “vigilant approach” has contributed to the low number of cases in the school community.

Molly Kingsley, co-founder of the parent campaign group UsForThem, said ministers must “urgently” clarify the position on face masks in schools.

“This just shows why measures of this nature should be treated very cautiously,” she said.

“Already 72 hours in we are already seeing the worrying extension of this mandate into primary schools. We suspect these two schools won’t be isolated examples. Is this really what we want for children?”

Ms Kingsley went on to say that the extension of face masks in secondary schools should not have been announced and called on the Government to backtrack on its decision.

"Face masks are an untested intervention and one that many respected academics and doctors have raised serious concerns about due to the long-term effects on communication and educational attainment,” she said.

“This is a measure of sufficient potential seriousness to mean that it never should have been rolled out without proper evaluation and it must now be reversed.”

Timeline of restrictions - what opens and when
Timeline of restrictions - what opens and when

A Department for Education spokesman said their guidance states face masks “should be worn by staff and adult visitors in situations where social distancing between adults is not possible (for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas)”.

The guidance adds that “children in primary school do not need to wear a face covering”.

Earlier this week, the Government said that children are not under any obligation to wear face masks and that schools should not send pupils home if they refuse to wear one.

While masks are strongly encouraged in secondary schools, they are not legal requirements and pupils should not be "denied education" as a result of non-compliance, officials said.