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Minister says face mask policy ‘at each school’s discretion’ but no child should be turned away

'No child should be refused entry to school or treated differently in school if they are unable to wear a face covering'

Education Minister Peter Weir has said that no child should be refused entry to school for not wearing a face mask.

And it is up to schools to decide the best way to implement their own policies on masks.

The information was provided by Minister Weir to Newry and Armagh MLA Justin McNulty.

The SDLP representative had sought an update on what action the Department of Education was taking to ensure the wearing of face masks in secondary schools is being “implemented consistently” across Northern Ireland.

The Minister said that, since the recent return of schools, the common aim had been to keep them safe for children and staff, prioritise children’s education and ensure that any impact on overall transmission was as low as possible.

And he added: “In order to achieve this the introduction of an additional mitigating measure was introduced, i.e. the requirement for post-primary pupils to wear masks to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 with the wearing of face coverings playing an important role in reducing the risk across our communities.”

But Mr Weir said a pupil not wearing a face mask should be singled out.

He added: “No child should be refused entry to school or treated differently in school if they are unable to wear a face covering. No medical certification for an exemption is required, nor should it be sought by the school.

“It is up to the individual schools to implement the wearing of face masks, however, as this remains as guidance and recommended good practice, it is at the school’s discretion on how to enforce this.

“If an individual or group is dissatisfied with the level of compliance provided by the school, the school should have a process by which concerns may be raised.

“Alternatively, the school will have a complaints procedure available to parents, carers, and other stakeholders that should be used to raise any issues.”

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