Schools minister hopes face masks in class will no longer be needed from mid-May

Abbianca Makoni
·2-min read
<p>Some children are said to be “really suffering” as a result of wearing masks.</p> (PA Wire)

Some children are said to be “really suffering” as a result of wearing masks.

(PA Wire)

The Government’s schools minister, Nick Gibb, hopes pupils will no longer have to wear face masks in class in schools across England from mid-May.

But he warned that the decision on whether to lift the precautionary measure for secondary and college students will depend on “the data.”

Speaking at an education select committee, he added: “There will be a review leading up to step three of the road map and the expectation is that if everything is successful, and the road map is going in the direction we expect it to go in, then we hope that face masks won’t be necessary after that date.”

But the measure can only be lifted when further easing of social contact limits indoors are confirmed, which will be no earlier than May 17.

His comments came after MPs raised concerns about face coverings disrupting pupils’ learning and wellbeing.

Caroline Johnson, Conservative MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham, said she had heard many stories of children “really suffering” as a result of wearing masks.

Pupils wear protective face masks at Outwood Academy Adwick in DoncasterPA Archive
Pupils wear protective face masks at Outwood Academy Adwick in DoncasterPA Archive

She said: “Particularly as we’ve entered hayfever season and the pollen can lodge in the mask as the extra heat contributes to children who have skin conditions like teenage acne.

“So the mask wearing is becoming more difficult for young people particularly on top of the communication skills issue,” she added.

Fleur Anderson, Labour MP for Putney also suggested that some deaf students were “losing out” because not all teachers were wearing clear face masks.

She said: “I’ve been contacted by pupils who are deaf and the impact of having a clear mask for all teachers is very important for them, but they’re saying that doesn’t always happen for deaf pupils and so they’re losing out at the moment on education so will that impact the assessment there?”

Earlier this month, the Department for Education (DfE) said secondary school and college pupils in England would need to continue wearing face masks in class when they return after Easter, but the DfE expected to remove the requirement as part of the next stage of lifting the coronavirus lockdown.

Any changes to the policy will be confirmed with one week’s notice following a review of the latest data on infection and vaccination rates.

A school pupil wearing a face mask on a bus in NewcastlePA Archive
A school pupil wearing a face mask on a bus in NewcastlePA Archive

When pressed on the impact of masks on pupils’ mental health, Mr Gibb said students did not seem to mind wearing face coverings and the profession were “keen to keep” them in place until at least May 17.

Pupils and teachers who are speaking to, or providing assistance to, someone who relies on lip-reading or facial expression to communicate, are currently exempt from wearing face masks in class.

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