Pupils at NI post-primary schools no longer required to wear face coverings in classrooms
PUPILS at post-primary schools in Northern Ireland are no longer required to wear face coverings in classrooms.
Masks have been a requirement for students since August 2021 amid high coronavirus cases in schools.
But earlier this month Education Minister Michelle McIlveen announced the measure would be removed. However, the use of masks are still "recommended in corridors, communal areas and on public and school transports".
The move brings the north into line with Britain and the Republic, where similar guidance for school pupils has already been put in place.
Ms McIlveen said masks had been beneficial in reducing Covid-19 cases but they had "disrupted learning by making communication with teaching staff and peers more difficult".
"Many young people will also have found the wearing of face coverings for long periods to have been uncomfortable," she said.
"I have taken into account the views of the Department of Health, trade unions, school staff, the parents who have either spoken or written to me and the young people who I have met in schools and through other avenues.
"I have also taken into account a range of studies from across the UK on this issue."
The National Deaf Children’s Society last night said the removal of face coverings from classrooms was "a huge relief to hundreds of deaf children in schools across Northern Ireland".
Helen Ferguson from the organisation said: "While public health must be a priority, face coverings have left them struggling to learn and left out of conversations with their friends.
"Even before face coverings were mandated, deaf children often achieved less than their hearing classmates due to a lack of support. We cannot risk that gap getting any wider.
"Going forward, all schools and colleges need to focus on making sure their deaf students are given everything they need to catch up with learning, reach their potential and recover from the isolation they have been living with for so long."