‘Inept, deeply political and too late’: Age readers respond to new school mask advice

The recommendation that Victorian children aged eight and older mask up again when indoors at school this winter was mostly met with approval at one busy suburban school on Tuesday morning, although not all parents favoured the move.

Many children who arrived at the school gates of Essendon North Primary were already masked, although most had their faces uncovered.

It is “strongly recommended” that students aged eight and over wear masks when indoors.Credit:iStock

Some of the parents The Age spoke with during the busy morning drop-off backed the new recommendation.

“My girls have been wearing masks all this while anyway, so I’m quite happy with that,” Cecil Hor said as he ushered his two daughters through the school’s side gate.

Sunita Vij said her two grandchildren, aged 10 and 8, had been wearing them to school anyway.

“Both my grandkids are wearing the masks,” she said. “Because it is more protection for them. All the time they are wearing them everywhere; to school, to taekwondo.”

But parent Vinh Quach was unconvinced, fearing primary school-aged children would struggle to wear them properly all day.

“It’s too hard for them,” he said. “I know I’m struggling with masks in the office.”

Sandy Brar, an outside school hours educator at the school, said she favoured children wearing masks, as it would reduce the spread of flu and viruses among the general population.

Students will not be sanctioned if they don’t wear masks.Credit:iStock

Prep parent Ben Suiter also said it was fair enough to ask children to mask up during winter “for the greater good”.

“I know there are vulnerable kids at this school,” he said. But he said the practicalities would be difficult, particularly for younger children.

The return of a recommendation for children aged eight and up to wear masks indoors at school has also received a mixed response from Age readers.

‘Schools are veritable COVID breeding grounds’: Readers respond to advice

“As a grandparent, I didn’t receive a letter. However, I am relieved to hear this as my daughter (a teacher) and my school-aged grandson have been infected twice and have passed on illness to me. It is about keeping the whole community safe, schools are veritable covid breeding grounds.” Frances Williamson

“This belated attempt to improve health safety is welcome. However, the process was inept, deeply political, and worst of all a week too late.“ Dr Doug Bryan

“No way will my child wear a mask! She has already had COVID and it was very mild. The physiological impact on a child of wearing a mask is far too great. Their ability to communicate and participate in class is greatly reduced. I want normality for my child – not masks!“ Irina

“This belated attempt to improve health safety is welcome. However, the process was inept, deeply political, and worst of all a week too late.”

“My kids started wearing masks in class when they [masks] became strongly recommended in indoor areas again. I have purchased kid-sized surgical masks to help with comfort and fit. The kids like knowing they are helping to reduce transmission and keeping others, including students who can’t wear masks, safer. Kids are caring and kind, and if they are given the right messaging, adapt with ease to wearing masks (notwithstanding those kids who can’t wear masks for medical reasons). I wish we’d focus more on collective responsibility, kindness, and caring for others, rather than focusing on what our individual needs and desires are and whether we ‘should have’ to wear masks or not.” Name not provided

“The advice is local and not supported by most other jurisdictions … Unless there is a mandate for ALL in indoor settings I do not support this move.” Dan B

“This leads to a total mess at the individual school level. It’s a minefield for kids being ostracised who aren’t wearing them, let alone kids with disabilities who aren’t able to wear them and might now be perceived to be deliberately flaunting the strong recommendation. It will cause confusion and division at a staff level where educators are already at breaking point. This is hopeless governance.” Sara McMillan

“I think the message should be firmer and mandate it rather than recommend. My kids still wear masks at school but there are very few. It’s such a small ask to reduce the spread of COVID but keep kids in the classroom.” – Rachel

“It makes sense, masks are better than remote learning! They should also get office-based workers to work from home until the end of August to reduce the spread as the vaccination doesn’t stop the spread.” Harry

“I’m a teacher at a 10-12 secondary school, and it was almost impossible to get students wearing masks when they were mandatory, we wasted so much teaching time arguing with students about masks. This new advice will just add to the already overwhelming workload of teachers but without the ability to enforce mask wearing.” Rachel Wilson

“More weasel words from bureaucrats and politicians with the onus placed squarely on the shoulders of the poor classroom teacher and the kids. Teacher gently explains how mask wearing is good for everyone’s safety. Class troublemaker Johnny refuses loudly. Class reacts. Pandemonium! No options for discipline or support at any level for the teacher. ” Neil, a retired teacher

“My daughter is in year 11. She has no problem with wearing a mask. The kids don’t see it as an inconvenience, they are keen to protect themselves and others. She attends a private school we received an email about it yesterday.” Jane

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