York man demands apology from council over ‘misleading’ claims about school pupils wearing face masks

Pupils at Marden Bridge Middle School in Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear, wearing masks. Photograph: Owen Humphreys / PA Wire
6 Sep 2020 @ 5.53 pm
| News

A man has taken City of York Council to task over its claims about children wearing face masks at school.

Glynn Magheramorne has lodged a Freedom Of Information request with the council demanding an explanation and apology over what he says are ‘untrue’ and ‘misleading’ references in a letter to parents.

This letter, dated 2 September 2020 and signed by Amanda Hatton and Sharon Stolz, said: “The government has subsequently changed their guidance and are now recommending that adults and children wear face coverings in communal spaces in secondary schools and higher education settings.”

Mr Magheramorne writes: “This claim is categorically untrue.”

He points to the official government advice which states: “The government is not recommending universal use of face coverings in all schools.

“Schools that teach children in years 7 and above and which are not under specific local restriction measures will have the discretion to require face coverings for pupils, staff and visitors in areas outside the classroom where social distancing cannot easily be maintained, such as corridors and communal areas and it has been deemed appropriate in those circumstances.”

Asking for full disclosure

Pupils wearing face masks in a corridor at St Columba’s High School, Gourock, Scotland. Photograph: Jane Barlow / PA Wire

Pupils will be asked to wear face masks on the school bus and in corridors in York secondary schools when they return to class next week.

But Mr Magheramorne quoted education secretary Gavin Williamson who said: “We do not believe it is necessary for youngsters or people at school to wear a face mask, except where we have made it mandatory in local lockdown areas.”

York is not at any imminent risk of becoming a local lockdown area.

Mr Magheramorne is asking the council for:

  1. A public apology and re-issuing of the letter;
  2. An “explanation as to how this incorrect information appeared in the letter”;
  3. Full disclosure of any relevant communications regarding the wearing of face coverings in schools, between any relevant individuals, including (but not limited to) Amanda Hatton and Sharon Stolz.

York’s director of public health, Sharon Stoltz, told YorkMix: “Face coverings, alongside hand washing, social distancing and staying at home and getting tested remain our best defence against the virus and the best way of slowing the spread.

“Pupils will be asked to wear face masks on school buses and in corridors in York secondary schools when they return to class next week. After careful consideration we feel that the evidence recently released shows it is a worthwhile extra precaution.

“There is no need to wear them in classrooms as they have been set up to allow for social distancing with desks spaced out and all facing forwards but in corridors where people may not be able to easily socially distance we are asking pupils and staff who can to wear a face covering.

“Schools will be supporting those who may be exempt from wearing a face covering.

“Our priority is and always will be the wellbeing of pupils and staff and we feel this advice, which we have agreed with headteachers, will help protect pupils as they return to school.”