THE Education Minister has said the Government would support the wearing of face masks for primary school children between the ages of six and 11 if NPHET recommended it.
Norma Foley told the Dail the wearing of face masks by primary school pupils is not recommended by public health officials, but that if National Public Health Emergency Team’s advice changed that is “exactly what we will do”.
The Kerry TD made the comments in response to Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon, who called on the Government to follow the advice of the World Health Organisation and introduce mask-wearing for primary school children.
Mr Gannon said: “The WHO have advocated mask-wearing for children aged six to 11 and yet we are still are equivocating on the issue.
“I think this small measure would make a massive difference.”
But he added that mask-wearing alone would not make it safer for children at school and that ventilation would also need to be improved.
“If you see what they’re doing in other jurisdictions in relation to prioritisation of ventilation, it is making us look a little behind not only the trend but the science,” he said.
Ms Foley said: “[NPHET] have not recommended mask-wearing for primary school children, however any child is, of course, free to wear a mask if they so wish to.
“There is no equivocation on the issue.
“If it is the expert recommendation of public health then it is exactly what we will do.
“But as it stands at this point it has not been their recommendation.”
Under the Government’s current guidelines staff and secondary school students are advised to wear face masks or coverings when a physical distance of two metres from others cannot be maintained.
But it is not mandatory for primary school children to wear masks.
Mr Gannon warned TDs that there was a “wave of trauma” coming down the tracks caused to children by the pandemic. He said the issue of trauma needed to be taken seriously.
He said: “We have a wave of trauma approaching us from young people over the coming months and years as a consequence of the pandemic.”
RADICAL VISION NEEDED
Ms Foley, who was answering questions in the Dail on the reopening of schools since Christmas, said the department was developing a range of workshops for the “promotion of wellbeing and resilience” in schools including “trauma informed approaches” which are designed to address the issues caused by the closure of schools.
She said the workshops would be piloted in schools in the coming months to be rolled out in September.
Labour’s Aodhan O Riordain said a “radical vision” for repairing the damage caused by the school closures was needed.
The party’s education spokesman called on the Government to introduce a catch-up programme to help children “profoundly damaged” by the lack of in-class teaching.
He said: “The damage has been done, particularly for children in acute disadvantage and those who need school most.”
“We need to replicate what is happening in the UK where there’s a £1 billion catch-up fund.
“There doesn’t seem to be the same urgency or vision within the Irish education system.
“It’s like we just want children to go back and that will be normal, but we have to acknowledge that not being in class since Christmas for certain cohorts of children is profoundly damaging.”
Ms Foley said she was “very cognisant” of the issues caused by school closures and that the Department of Education’s inspectorate had garnered considerable information on how it had impacted students
Courtesy – The Irish sun