Dundee’s education convener has defended the decision to ask all secondary school pupils to wear face coverings in classrooms following concerns from parents.
We’ll make sure that young people can get a break where they can.”
Councillor Stewart Hunter
The new rules were criticised by Dundee’s representative of the National Parent Forum, Mary O’Connor, who called the new rules “worrying”.
Mary, who has children in S1 and S3 at Baldragon Academy, said she first heard of the news through social media. However she has yet to hear any direct correspondence from school staff.
She said: “I’m very disappointed that parents haven’t been informed. There has been no letter from the school except a few posts on Twitter.
“There’s going to be a lot of children across Dundee who might not have known they needed to wear a mask.”
She also expressed her concerns over the length of time her children may be required to wear a mask.
“It feels like quite a long time – from quarter to nine until around 3:40pm is a long time for young people,” she said.
“If the weather is bad and our children can’t get outside for fresh air, will they only be able to remove their mask if they’re eating?”
Mary also said parents need clarity over the affordability of supplying their children with several face masks each day.
She added: “If you’re wearing your mask effectively you’d possibly have to have several per day if you need to put on a new one after break and lunch.
“You can say that children have to wear them but who is going to have to provide masks if they need to be changed frequently? Masks are not cheap and folk may not have the money to send their children to school with multiple masks each day.”
Explaining the reasoning behind the new rules, education convener Stewart Hunter said the new measures will help teachers encourage the use of face coverings.
He said: “It’s not part of national guidance and we can’t enforce it in the same way as S4-S6 but headteachers consulted with trade unions and parent councils and were quite keen to do this although it was beyond the government guidelines and we felt comfortable allowing them to do that.
“We’ll wait and see how we go in the next couple of weeks but certainly pupils, by and large, are complying with it and it’s helping schools and staff be able to enforce it.”
Mr Hunter, who has two children of secondary school age, said he shared Mary’s concerns over pupils wearing face coverings for too long.
However he said schools were working with youngsters to ensure they were getting adequate breaks.
“It’s ok today because the weather is quite nice and they can go out and get a break during lunch but I absolutely recognise that it’s Scotland and we can’t guarantee that we’re going to get good weather all of the time.
“The schools will work individually on what’s best based on the nature of the building and what’s best for them we’ll make sure that young people can get a break where they can.”
He also thanked pupils, parents and school staff for complying with the measures.
“We’re asking young people to do things that a year ago we’d never have thought necessary but we’ve got to try and keep people safe.
“I know there’s some people who question why we still have to wear masks all of the time but we really do appreciate the compliance.
“We’re asking a lot of them and it’s been a really tough time for all of them over the last six to seven months but on this issue we really do appreciate their support and compliance.”