'90% of students required wore masks': Cork teacher

'90% of students required wore masks': Cork teacher

On Tuesday evening, the Government asked schools to ensure that children in third class and above wear masks in primary schools and on school transport. Children who can provide a medical certificate are exempt. Pic: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

The Taoiseach has said the requirement that primary school children wear masks is not a rule he is “entirely 100% comfortable with”.

Micheál Martin said the new rules are challenging but there has to be “common sense, discretion and practical approach” applied to the requirements. On Tuesday evening, the Government asked schools to ensure that children in third class and above wear masks in primary schools and on school transport. Children who can provide a medical certificate are exempt.

Mr Martin was challenged by Labour leader Alan Kelly over the legal enforcement of the regulations.

“It is challenging, deputy. I appreciate that. It’s not a place I am entirely 100% comfortable with, as a person, as a parent, and as a former teacher myself,” Mr Martin said. 

“I’m very much alive to different situations in different schools. We have to be sensitive to all of that.”

Mr Kelly asked whether school principals and boards of management will be legally protected when enforcing the wearing of face masks.

Mr Martin said: “In the middle of a global pandemic, where school principals and management are applying public health policy, they will be protected.”

Cork school

One Cork City-based primary teacher told The Echo the first day went well. “I would say 90% of the students were wearing masks today,” he said. “The students had been wearing masks in dribs and drabs anyway. In the last two weeks we had more and more students coming in with masks on.”

The teacher said his school will adopt a flexible approach with students in the coming days.

“There is no point in looking for confrontation,” he said.

“The first directive was concerning as it was a bit heavy-handed. It put a lot of the onus on schools to implement it without giving us the time to plan for it. Students who didn’t wear a mask were to be refused entry.

“The second directive which came through was a bit more relaxed, which was good.”

Mr Kelly also criticised the Government for how it communicated the new policy.

“Surely there should have been a communications process whereby principals are engaged, unions are engaged with, and also children are engaged,” he said. “I understand the minister has now clarified that there are a couple of days grace, but ultimately this is mandatory and that is fine, but the communications process around it is frankly diabolical.”

Mr Martin said that school management will know their community and how to engage with their community. “Obviously, in terms of special needs children there won’t be a requirement if it is not suitable,” Mr Martin said. “There has to be a commonsense, discretion, practical approach to this.”

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