Thursday, April 25, 2024
HomeCOVID-19The mask and a licence for mischief

The mask and a licence for mischief


WHY all the fuss about the wearing of face masks in communal areas in our schools? The French, after all, have gone even further. Secondary pupils and their teachers will have to wear them all day while on school premises. Primary school children are being given an exemption, but not their teachers. Even stricter mask rules will apply when schools re-open in Italy and Spain. Some German states are taking the same line, but the Netherlands has decided against making masks in school compulsory. Governmental decision-making around the world on this matter is volatile and changes on a regular basis.

The advantages of face masks in British schools, though, should be obvious – from the point of view of some pupils. I have Dennis the Menace and his type in mind. For a start, they make excellent catapults. No need to smuggle in the real thing, which would be likely to be confiscated after firing one projectile along the corridor. Masks come with a confiscation-free guarantee.

And if Boris turns up at your school to teach you about mutant algorithms, what better defence than using a face mask to cover your eyes?

Swapping, licking and spitting are some of the other uses to which face masks will be put in schools, according to one very sensible headteacher, Katharine Birbalsingh.

Forget about children all complying with rules on the correct wearing of government-imposed muzzles. As Birbalsingh points out, pupils are not lab technicians. Expect instead to see many youngsters wearing masks, at best, as competitive fashion accessories but, otherwise, as a means of provoking mirth and disorder.

Children are fully aware that masks are mostly for disguise, often to cover up covert or forbidden activities, and they are not slow to spot an opportunity. Those calling out obscenities or un-PC put-downs are going to be difficult to identify if they can hide behind the cover of a mask. In a not necessarily welcome way, freedom of speech will flourish.

Humour aside, the imposition of face masks is a potential recipe for increased disorder in schools. The whole point of the full re-opening of schools is to restore some normality to the lives of children and their parents. Millions of pupils, especially amongst the less privileged, have been missing out badly.

The masks will only add to the climate of fear that is suffocating the life of our country in general and the wellbeing of our children in particular. Because some children will, inevitably, abuse as well as use the mask their imposition may add to the risk of the virus spreading. Are we really expecting all children to turn up at school each day with a clean face mask and not to behave like children?

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Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern is the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education. A retired head teacher with 35 years’ teaching experience, Chris is a former advisor to the Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street under two Prime Ministers.

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