School's out for pupil, 10, after face mask ban

A 10-year-old pupil's parents have been warned they could face legal proceedings if their son does not return to school - and without wearing a face mask
Kieron Meade has been told he cannot wear a mask in school.Kieron Meade has been told he cannot wear a mask in school.
Kieron Meade has been told he cannot wear a mask in school.

Kieron Meade was "very excited" about seeing his friends at Friskney All Saints Church of England School on Friday for the first time since lockdown until his parents received a letter from the school stating he "must be without a face covering in accordance to the guidance provided".

His parents - Paul and Michelle Meade, of Croft - say they cannot not believe the school has banned the wearing of face coverings whilst "the infection rate across East Lindsey is rising and the rest of the UK is facing increased lockdown measures".

"Now is surely the time to give students the option of increasing their protection from the virus," said Kieron's father, Paul.

Kieron Meade ready to return to school wearing a mask.Kieron Meade ready to return to school wearing a mask.
Kieron Meade ready to return to school wearing a mask.

In a letter from the school, Kieron’s parents have been warned his absence is being recorded as unauthorised. They have been told that if he does not return, then the matter will be referred to Lincolnshire School Attendance Team to undertake legal proceedings.

His parents say they have science on their side, citing a large South Korean study that says 10 to 19-year-olds spread the virus at the same rate as adults, and a World Health Organisation report that suggests that, in certain circumstances, 10-yea-olds should wear masks.

Paul said: “The World Health Organisation is clear that 10-yea-olds should wear a mask in areas where the infection rate is increasing, and where the child comes into contact with someone on a regular basis who is vulnerable to the disease.

"I am diabetic and at an increased risk to complications if I catch the virus..

"So our son wants to do the right thing and wear a mask, not just to protect himself, but to protect others, like me.

“This ban by Friskney school flies in the face of science and health experts around the world. We are in the midst of a global pandemic, where we should be urging extra vigilance at all levels.”

In recent evidence given to a US Senate subcommittee Director of the Centre for Disease Control, Dr Robert Redfield declared that wearing a mask is the most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of the virus, and he said, “it may offer more protection than a vaccine.”

Paul believes the school is ignoring the science in favour of an interpretation of policy.

“It seems outrageous that for seven months we have told our son to follow Government guidelines and wear a mask in public places - but when it comes to our local school they actually ban the wearing of face coverings," he said.

"It seems rather extreme. We are not demanding other children wear a mask, we are just asking that pupils have the option - if they or their parents feel a need for that extra level of protection, especially if they have someone vulnerable to the virus at home.

Primary students in many parts of the world - including in the USA and Canada - are required to wear masks at school, and in Scotland parents do have the option to send their children to school wearing a face covering.

Here, the Education Authority and Health England, although they do not recommend the wearing of masks for children under 12 - do not forbid it.

The Meade family believe Friskney All Saints should support parents in wanting the best protection possible for children at school.

“In a letter from the Head earlier this year he suggested that he understood our plight, and also understood the school could not guarantee our son’s safety," said Paul. "Why would I then be willing to send him there, if they will not allow him to wear protection recommended by health experts worldwide?

“It’s like telling children to always wear a helmet when riding their bike - but if they are on school property they must take that helmet off. It is that ridiculous. It makes no sense to us at all.

“We know you can’t completely shield your children from the virus, it is out there.

"But the message from science and health experts is clear - wash hands thoroughly, keep your distance and wear a mask.

"We want the school to give our son the chance to do just that. By doing so he will not be causing any harm to himself or any other child, and there is no scientific evidence to suggest otherwise.

“Surely, by excluding our son from school because he wants to wear a mask is more damaging to his mental health and well-being?

"Friskney School is depriving our son of an education.

“We have asked them to please reconsider, to make an exception. Ten-year-olds across the world are wearing masks at school.

"Our son wants to go to school wearing a mask - why the big deal?"

The Meade's have been told until the school receives different advice from the Department for Education, Lincolnshire County Council, Public Health England and Lincolnshire then the school policy remains that "primary aged pupils do not wear face coverings on school premises".

Lincolnshire County Council, speaking on behalf of the school, said the government has provided schools with range of guidance to help them prevent the virus spreading.

Martin Smith, interim assistant director for education said: "It isn't a case of one-size fits all, and it is down to each school to determine the most appropriate measures for their circumstances.

"The current government guidance states that face coverings are not necessary in the classroom, even where social distancing is not possible.

"The guidance also states that face coverings would have a negative impact on teaching and their use in the classroom should be avoided.

"However, the government has not banned them outright."