The Department for Education’s review of face-covering policies in schools is “skewing evidence” to justify “dumping face-covering requirements and mitigations rather than strengthening them”
School representatives receiving the questions believed that they were slanted toward providing the Department for Education (DfE) with grounds to weaken safety measures in schools, which are already far weaker and more inconsistent than other countries experiencing greater success in controlling their COVID-19 epidemics.
The questions were sent out by the DfE on 22 March with the requirement to respond in less than 24 hours. Sources who have received these emails were surprised that such an important Government review was requesting evidence at such short notice.
The DfE’s questions did not request any information on public health issues such as infection numbers from schools or the associated impacts on children needing to self-isolate at home. The Tory Government questions focused on tangential questions including:
- Staff uptake and adherence to the policy
- Student uptake and adherence to the policy
- The benefits of face coverings inside and/or outside the classroom, including on particular groups, such as SEND [Special Educational Needs and Disabilities] pupils
- The disadvantages of using face coverings inside and/or outside the classroom, including on particular groups, such as SEND pupils
- The impact on teaching and/or learning – either positive or negative
One source familiar with the DfE review process told Byline Times that its approach risked cherry-picking evidence to allow the Government to announce a weakening of safety measures, by “wrongly balancing” scientific public health evidence around mask efficacy with general sentiment.