School principals to take conciliatory approach to mask-wearing refusals on Monday

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Primary principals are being advised to take a conciliatory approach to parents who refuse to allow their children wear mask in schools, from Monday.

ather than turning such a pupil away, the Department of Education says they should engage with parents to address their concerns.

The initial guidance on the issue said pupils without an exemption who did not comply would be refused entry to schools, and Education Minister Norma Foley subsequently said they would be asked to “stand down from school”.

However, in face of strong objections from some parents, including a street protest in Dublin, and school leaders’ concerns about enforcement, a softer approach is being recommended.

While the mask wearing rule for pupils from third class up was introduced this week, and there have been high levels of compliance, Monday is seen as the effective start date.

There are exemptions on medical grounds and principals also have distortion to grant an exemption without a medical certificate, based on their knowledge of a child.

But the policy has no legal underpinning and school, principal and teacher representative bodies have been seeking clear guidance about how to deal with refusal where no exemption is in place.

Discussions were held with the education partners today to talk through the implementation of public health advice in schools and full guidance on this issue will be available on Monday.

However a department spokesperson said Friday night that the education partners “were asked to note that where a parent does not send their children to school with a mask on Monday morning, schools should continue their engagement to address their concerns and reassure them that the measures are for the benefit of the entire school community.”

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