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Masks in primary school like 'putting a muzzle on a child', teacher claims

Children over the age of nine are to be asked to wear masks in school, shops and on public transport
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

20.58 25 Nov 2021


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Masks in primary school like '...

Masks in primary school like 'putting a muzzle on a child', teacher claims

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

20.58 25 Nov 2021


Share this article


A teacher says she believes mandating mask wearing in primary schools would have a 'drastic effect' on younger children.

Emer O'Neill, who also co-hosts The Today Show on RTÉ, says this would be akin to putting a muzzle on a child.

It comes as children over the age of nine are to be asked to wear masks in school, shops and on public transport.

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In a letter to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) says children should also avoid community gatherings for the next two weeks.

It says children should avoid birthday parties, sleep-overs and communions.

The letter will be considered by Government in the next few days before it becomes official policy.

But Emer told The Hard Shoulder while she understands the benefits, she would not like to see masks on schoolchildren.

"It got me thinking because I've a seven-year-old... and obviously I think the last two years have played a huge role in his life.

"It's not something he's ever going to forget, and I think we - as parents - just looking into the future, I don't know if we'll see the detriment it's had on them.

"It might take years, it might not.

"I think people are even seeing things now just in terms of social engagement, emotional welfare - just even the idea of touching people and hugging people.

"I just feel the mask wearing for kids in the primary school setting: I honestly think that would have a really drastic impact on them.

"At least they themselves can look at each other and see each other's faces and smiles and facial expressions."

'Really mixed feelings'

She says this will add to what they already have to deal with.

"It's going to be hard to try and erase this period of time from their mind anyway, but to drag in the idea of mask-wearing every single day in school as well I just think it will have a drastic effect on them.

"I can see, obviously, the benefits COVID-wise and trying to keep this at bay.

"I have really mixed feelings about this to be honest".

She believes shy students would be the most disadvantaged by this change.

"In a way, you're nearly putting a muzzle on a child.

"So if you have a child who doesn't maybe regularly speak out in class - that almost feels like they have a hand over their mouth - cause they're nervous maybe to give their answer... you're actually putting a physical limitation on them now as well."

She says this "could really play havoc with kids that struggle in the first place".

And Emer says she uses body language as part of her work.

"I would use body language and facial expressions to see if a kid is struggling with something or is unhappy.

"And it might be harder for teachers to be able to see those kind of things when they're masked up."

Masks in primary school like 'putting a muzzle on a child', teacher claims

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Main image: Children in facemasks leave school in Ukraine in March 2020. Picture by: David Tadevosian / Alamy Stock Photo

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Children Emer O'neill Masks Muzzle On A Child NPHET Primary Schools The Hard Shoulder

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