It is unnecessary, educationally destructive and self evidently unhygienic.
German research noted that there is no manufacturer independent studies confirming the benefit of masks for children and adolescents.
There is, however, science which has confirmed the harmful physical, psychological and behavioural effects — the same German report indicated that the harms may be more widespread than previously reported.
There is plenty of research confirming that children, should they catch it, are almost unaffected by the virus.
And that their teachers are no more affected than the general public (Office of National Statistics).
And that their parents are also almost unaffected, with Professor John Ioannidis, professor of Epidemiology and Statistics at Stanford University placing the probability of survival for people under 70 after infection at 99.95%.
And the Northern Ireland Public Health Agency reports that schools are not major sources of transmission.
Furthermore the world’s leading scientists state that asymptomatic transmission is insignificant or zero.
Education and the socialisation aspects of it cannot take place behind a mask. It requires unimpeded visual and oral communication.
Good teaching involves a variety of teaching strategies to take account of the different learning styles of pupils, some learn best by doing, some by looking and some by listening.
It involves inter-activity, group work, team work, discussion, detailed complex explanation-imagine a question and answer session or a drama lesson or a reading or a language lesson or a poetry reading or oracy or a role play session or a singing lesson with a mask.
Choirs, drama productions, sport all play an important part in children’s education.
Masks make important engagement with outside agents — authors, sports coaches, careers officers, counsellors, translators, actors, artists — also impossible. This is not school.
Children with Special Educational Needs and children who are challenged by education require personal contact with their teacher. Facial expressions provide reinforcement and visual clues.
Teachers often assess the degree of understanding of their teaching from the facial expressions of their pupils, thus leading to better targeted teaching.
Expressions are essential too to gauge emotions and for teachers to detect essential non verbal communication around deep feelings.
In addition to loss of learning, there are the negative effects. In the German study, the most frequently reported side effects of masks were irritability, headaches, difficulty concentrating, less cheerfulness, fatigue and anxiety.
In Sweden the Public Health Agency’s standpoint is “Children are not the drivers [of infection] in this epidemic”. “the benefit of masks is not large enough to outweigh the downside of reduced learning and communication in the classroom”.
How would you rather your child was educated?
The UN Convention of Human Rights of the Child “in all actions concerning children…undertaken by public institutions…the best interests of the child shall be the primary consideration”.
We are not doing this.
It is time to unmask.
l Hugh McCarthy is a former principal of Killicomaine High