Q&A: Can my child really be refused entry to school for not wearing a face mask?

Schools being advised to take a ‘flexible’ approach to the new rules over the coming days

What are the new rules on wearing face masks at primary school?
Pupils in third class upwards are required to wear face masks, apart from those with exemptions. These rules apply for children aged nine-plus using public transport and in other public, indoor settings.

Can my child really be refused entry to school for not wearing a mask?
Department of Education guidelines state that unmasked pupils in third class upwards will be refused entry to school if they do not have a medical certificate to show they are exempt from the rules.

Schools, however, are being advised by the Government to take a “flexible” and “practical” approach to the new rules over the coming days.

Hospital Report

Are these rules underpinned by law?
The guidelines are not statutory but, like existing rules on face masks for secondary students, schools are required to implement them.


When asked if school principals will be legally protected when implementing the wearing of face masks, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said where they apply public health policy they will be “protected definitely”.

On what grounds can a child be exempt from wearing a mask?
There three main grounds under which children may be exempt from wearing a mask:

(1) Any pupil with difficulty breathing or other relevant medical conditions
(2) Any pupil who is unable to remove the cloth face-covering or visor without assistance
(3) Any pupil who has special needs and who may feel upset or very uncomfortable wearing the cloth face covering or visor, for example pupils with intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental health conditions, sensory concerns or tactile sensitivity

Do children require a medical certificate to prove they are exempt?
Most children will not require a medical certificate on the basis that schools are best placed to identify children whose needs are such that the wearing of face covering may not be possible for them.

In other circumstances, a medical certificate – from a GP, typically – must be provided to the school.

What happens with mask wearing at break time or during PE?
A "common sense" approach is being advised. As it the case at second level, students may take off masks briefly for eating and drinking indoors.

Schools are being advised that masks can also be taken off when in the yard and for PE lessons outdoors.

If sporting activity takes place indoors, masks do not need to be worn if the space is well ventilated and subject to CO2 monitoring.

Masks may also be taken off for music, but consideration should be given to social distancing and ventilation.

What happens if my child forgets or loses their face mask?
Schools should have a sufficient supply of masks for this purpose.

My child is in a mixed class with second and third class pupils. What rules apply?
Where there are mixed classes in a single classroom, only children in third class and above are required to wear face masks.

When will the rules be reviewed?
The Department of Education says it has been advised that this measure is being introduced on a temporary basis and is subject to review in mid-February 2022.