Senior pupils and their teachers in Dundee schools will have to wear face coverings in class from Monday.
New rules issued by the Scottish Government extending the use of face masks will also see parents in all areas wear them dropping off and picking up children.
In level three and four tiers – which includes the Dundee City Council area – pupils and their teachers in S4 to S6 will have to wear face coverings in classrooms as well as in corridors and other communal areas.
Parents and carers in all areas – including Fife, Angus and Perth and Kinross in tier two – will have to wear masks if they enter school grounds to drop off and pick up children, as will adults in schools when they cannot keep two metres from other adults or children.
In levels three and four, parents of children at the highest clinical risk level are also advised to seek advice on whether they should attend school, with similar advice for staff where appropriate protection is not in place.
Covid cases in Dundee schools
The new measures come as pupils of several Dundee schools are self-isolating after people tested positive just days into the new term.
While school closures are not required in even the top level tier, a warning was issued that they could not be ruled out and remote learning remained a back-up plan.
Dundee representative of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, Mary O’Connor, said the new rules were likely to polarise opinion among parents.
She said: “S4 to S6 kids are going to be wearing face masks almost from 9am through to 3pm.
“I understand why they have to do this, to protect the kids and teachers. I can also see the impact it’s going to have on kids who rely on facial expression and lip-reading more than they realise.
S4 to S6 kids are going to be wearing face masks almost from 9am through to 3pm.”
Mary O’Connor, National Parent Forum of Scotland and Dundee parent
“A lot of parents are strongly against face masks but a lot of people are saying ‘we have to wear them at work’ so why not? There will be the two extremes, but other people will shrug their shoulders and say ‘we just need to get on with it’.”
David Baxter, secretary of the Dundee branch of the EIS teaching union, welcomed the changes but said more was needed to protect those in schools.
He said: “I think it is necessary they have had to strengthen the guidelines because of that risk out there in terms of community infection.
“As a trade union we support advice around things like face coverings.”
But he said action was needed to reduce class sizes and recruit more teachers to allow physical distancing and ensure schools remain open.
He said: “If the Scottish Government is really serious about this now is the time to invest in increasing school estates, including the number of teachers employed, taking people from supply lists and permanently employing them.”
Plea to Dundee parents and pupils
Senior pupils and families in Dundee were urged to abide by the new rules by the city council’s children and families convener Stewart Hunter.
He said: “I have been impressed by the responsibility that has been shown around face coverings so far in our schools and I would ask that people pay close attention to these new guidelines.
“Families should play their part as well at drop off and pick up times.
“Dundee is facing new restrictions because of the worrying situation in the city.
“I would ask everyone to do their bit to help drive down the number of local cases.”
Dundee is facing new restrictions because of the worrying situation in the city. I would aske everyone to do their bit to help drive down the number of local cases.”
Stewart Hunter, Dundee City Council
The new guidance was issued on Friday outlining additional measures at all five levels in the tier system, which the government said took account of public health advice.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “Keeping schools open remains our priority but that can only be the case if schools are safe. There have been tremendous efforts applied by staff and pupils to ensure this is the case and I thank them all for their efforts.”
He said guidance on schools was constantly reviewed and added: “It is vital that all the measures are followed rigorously in schools.
“Doing that – together with the collective efforts of all of us across wider society – will help to ensure that schools can safely remain open.
“None of the levels in the framework require any automatic move to school closures or blended learning.
“However, no one can predict what the coming weeks and months will bring.
“Remote learning remains an important contingency for schools at all levels of the strategic framework and there has been considerable progress made in the provision of remote learning, should that be required.”
What are the new rules around face masks?
- Face coverings should be worn by adults where they cannot keep two metres away from other adults or children in primary and secondary schools (with some exceptions in P1-2).
- Face coverings should be worn by parents and other visitors to school grounds, including entering the playground to drop-off and pick-up children.
Level three and four:
- Pupils in S4 to S6 and their teachers should wear face coverings in classrooms, as well as when they are moving around the school and in communal areas.