Parents ‘will not send children to school’ if mandatory face masks introduced, groups warn

Nphet recommends students aged nine or over should wear masks indoors

National Parents Council Primary received more than 700 contacts from parents within hours of Nphet’s recommendations being reported. Photograph: iStock

National Parents Council Primary received more than 700 contacts from parents within hours of Nphet’s recommendations being reported. Photograph: iStock

 

Parents’ groups have warned that many families will not send their children into school if they are forced to wear face masks.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has recommended to the Government that children aged nine or over should wear face masks in school and indoor settings.

However, the Children’s Rights Alliance, a coalition of charities and non-governmental organisations, said parents and members were concerned that face masks could interfere with children’s wellbeing, particularly those with autism, learning difficulties or health issues such as asthma.

“This means that some children will find it difficult or indeed impossible to wear a mask in school,” said Tanya Ward, the alliance’s chief executive.

She said it is vitally important that Government provides “crystal clear” advice to schools to ensure they take account of each child’s needs in accessing their right to an education.

Áine Lynch, National Parents Council Primary chief executive, said the group received more than 700 contacts from parents within hours of Nphet’s recommendations being reported.

“There are a lot of parents saying they won’t send their children to school,” she said.

“Overall parents are concerned that young kids will be required to wear masks, and they want to know why this is happening now, as they have not worn masks all along,” she said.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, which represents primary teachers, has been calling for a review of face mask rules in primary schools for several months.

Poorly ventilated

It says its members are teaching the “largest cohort of unvaccinated and unmasked individuals in often overcrowded and poorly ventilated settings”.

John Boyle, the union’s general secretary, said it will be very important for Government to communicate arrangements for any additional measures “clearly and consistently” to everyone in school communities.

“The INTO remains of the view that contact tracing provided us with a clearer picture of transmission in our schools and we continue to call for this to be reinstated,” he said.

“It served us well and, with some modifications, renewed contract tracing could be particularly helpful at this juncture. Should public-health capacity for contact tracing need to be increased in order to do reintroduce it in schools, without having a negative impact on tracing in other settings where transmission is prevalent, we would encourage Government to provide resources to facilitate this.”

He said provision of more air quality monitors and air filtration systems to primary and special schools would also greatly assist our schools.

“Department of Education officials confirmed this week that the department’s building and planning unit has adequate funding to assist schools where ventilation or air quality continues to be below acceptable level,” he said.

The alliance, meanwhile, said Nphet’s proposed restrictions on children’s socialisation over the next two weeks will be very challenging.

“Not being able to meet friends for playdates and parties is very difficult for children and young people but this recommendation from Nphet is for a short period,” Ms Ward said.

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