From 28 February 2022, face coverings will no longer be required in classrooms in Scotland.
Face coverings in school have played an important role in protecting the right to life and to health during the pandemic. Young people have consistently shown willingness to undertake all necessary actions to feel safe and to ensure that others are kept safe.
Face coverings do impact on young people’s learning and educational experience, including their ability to socialise, communicate, and access supports which are essential for their development. They should only ever be required where it can be demonstrated that they are necessary and proportionate.
The Scottish Government has now determined that the risks of Covid-19 have reduced sufficiently to mean that face coverings are no longer necessary in school classrooms but will be retained for moving around the building.
In removing wearing face coverings in classrooms as a protection measure, it is important that other mitigations are in place, such as ventilation measures. Vaccination also plays a part in protecting children.
Use of a Child Rights Impact Assessment is an essential tool when important decisions affecting children are made and they need to be involved in the decision-making around significant changes such as these. Young people have consistently told us that in the uncertainty of the pandemic, it is important that they understand decision-making and that the rationale is as clear and transparent as possible.
Some young people will understandably feel anxious at this significant change after a long period of public messaging around the importance of wearing face coverings. Especially those young people who are most at risk to the impact of Covid-19 on their own health or the health of others in their family.
The Scottish Government should prioritise communicating this significant change to young people directly in a clear and accessible way.
Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, said:
“Face coverings in classrooms have played an important role during the pandemic in supporting the right to the best possible health, and the right to life.
“However, face coverings have also had a negative impact for pupils, affecting their right to education, their ability to socialise, communicate, and access supports which are essential for their development.
“We have consistently said that any mitigations in schools must be necessary and proportionate and based on evidence. If the evidence is now that face coverings are no longer required in classrooms, reassurance must be given to young people in terms of the other mitigations in place.
“Some young people will understandably feel anxious at this change after a long period of being told how important face coverings are in protecting them and others. The Scottish Government should clearly communicate the reasons behind this decision directly to children and young people to provide much-needed reassurance.
“There will also be children and young people who, for many reasons, wish to continue to wear face coverings in all parts of school. They must be free to do so without stigma or judgement.”