Publication - FOI/EIR release

COVID-19 Face coverings evidence in schools: FOI release

Published: 8 Dec 2020

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Published:
8 Dec 2020
COVID-19 Face coverings evidence in schools: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202000106122
Date received: 30 Oct 2020
Date responded: 30 Nov 2020
Information requested
  • The scientific data which the Scottish government has used to inform decisions and recommendations regarding mask wearing in secondary schools and the specific data which has further informed increased recommendations regarding this for S4-6 pupils today.
  • The cost benefit analysis/equality impact assessments carried out regarding the effects of mask wearing on pupils psychological wellbeing and mental health
Response

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide a small amount of the information you have requested because an exemption under 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to that information because it is personal data of a third party, i.e.names/contact details of individuals, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018. This exemption is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.

In addition, an exemption under section 27(1) of FOISA applies to a document reviewing evidence on COVID-19 mitigation measures among children and young people because we intend to publish that information within 12 weeks of the date of your request. We consider that it is reasonable to withhold the information until that date, rather than releasing it before the planned date. This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’.

Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption.

We recognise that there is some public interest in release because we wish to be open and transparent and this will be met by our planned publication. In the meantime, there is a greater public interest in taking the time necessary to ensure the information has been properly collated and checked before it is published as planned. However, upon its publication, I would be more than happy to send a copy of it to you. 

To be as helpful as possible, information that is out of scope of your request has been removed, leaving only the information that is of interest to you in relation to your request.

The Reducing Risks in Schools guidance was published on 30 October and made new requirements regarding the use of face coverings in schools. It followed discussions with stakeholders, and drew on scientific and public health advice. The rationale for the approach agreed with stakeholders, which was precautionary, included the following:

  • The evidence we have regarding higher levels of infection amongst 16-17 year olds, which is being monitored via Covid-19 Education Recovery Group (CERG).
  • Previous advice from the Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues, which included advice that, should the prevalence of the virus in the population start rising nationally or in parts of Scotland, consideration be given to encouraging the wearing of face coverings, especially among adults and older pupils in secondary schools, as part of an enhanced system of approaches to reduce transmission. The  evidence around the efficacy of face coverings as a mitigating measure in respect of infection and transmission, which was taken into account in the Advisory Sub-Group’s advice.
  • The potential challenges with maintaining ventilation during winter (although note that updated guidance has been provided on this issue
  • The challenges that some secondary schools report with regard to maintaining distancing between students (which is required by guidance where possible).
  • The need to ensure confidence amongst staff, pupils and school communities as prevalence rises in local areas.
  • The potential for the wearing of face coverings in classrooms to have a positive influence on wider compliance, e.g. in communal areas and beyond.

We also weighed carefully the potential impacts on learning and teaching. The views of education stakeholders in CERG and elsewhere helped inform our consideration of this. The nuanced approach set out in the main body of the guidance, which stresses the need for sensitivity to those who are exempt and young people with additional support needs, is intended to apply to use of face coverings in senior phase classrooms as it does in other areas of the school. 
We will soon be publishing the Equality Impact Assessment and Children's Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment in relation to the guidance on Reducing the Risks in Schools. If helpful, I would be happy to send copies to you once they are published.
The information relevant to parts A and B (see below index of enclosures) of your request are attached separately, unless they are already published in which case links are provided.

INDEX OF ENCLOSURES FOR PART A

Enclosure No Description Explanation of redactions Clause  
1 Minutes of the
fifth meeting of
Scottish
Government
COVID-19
Advisory Sub-
Group on
Education &
Children’s
Issues
Personal
information
Out of scope
information
has also been
removed.
Section
38(1)(b)
(attached separately)
2 Minutes of the
sixth meeting
of Scottish
Government
COVID-19
Advisory Sub-
Group on
Education &
Children’s
Issues
Personal
information
Out of scope
information
has also been
removed.
Section
38(1)(b)
(attached separately)
3 COVID-19 -
Advisory Sub-
Group on
Education &
Children’s
Issues -
Update on
face coverings
in schools
N/A N/A https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronaviruscovid-
19-advisory-sub-group-on-education-and-childrens-
issues---advisory-note-on-facecoverings-
in-schools/
4 Minutes of the
ninth meeting
of Scottish
Government
COVID-19
Advisory Sub-
Group on
Education &
Children’s
Issues
Personal
information
Out of scope
information
has also been
removed.
Section
38(1)(b)
(attached separately)
5 Email from
Professor Devi
Sridhar
(member,
COVID-19
Advisory Sub-
Group on
Education &
Children's
Issues) to
Scottish
Government
official
regarding
research
that face
coverings
reduce the viral
load.
Personal information Section
38(1)(b)
(attached separately)
6 COVID-19
Advisory Sub-
Group on
Education &
Children's
Issues: Update
from 1st
October.
Personal
information
Out of scope
information
has also been
removed.
Section
38(1)(b)
(attached separately)
7 COVID-19
Advisory Sub-
Group on
Education &
Children's
Issues: Update
by Professor
Marion Bain,
Deputy Chief
Medical
Officer.

Out of scope
information
has also been
removed.
N/A (attached separately)
8 Link to COVID-
19: Advisory
Sub-Group on
Education and
Children’s
Issues - advice
on face
coverings,
physical
distancing and
related matters
N/A N/A https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-advisory-sub-group-on-education-and-childrens-issues---advice-on-coronavirus-covid-19-advisory-sub-group-on-education-and-childrens-issues-advice-on-face-coverings-physical-distancing-and-related-matters/
9 Link to COVID-
19: children
and
transmission:
evidence
summary
N/A N/A https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-children-and-transmission/

INDEX OF ENCLOSURES FOR PART B

Enclosure No Description Explanation of redactions Clause  
10 Minutes of meeting of the COVID-19 Advisory Group held on 18th August N/A N/A https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-advisory-sub-group-on-education-and-childrens-issues-minutes-18-august-2020/
11 Template text for
correspondence
in relation to
monitoring the
impacts of face
coverings.
N/A N/A (attached separately)
12 Equality Impact
Assessment in
relation to
Scotland’s
Strategic
Framework
N/A N/A www.legislation.gov.uk/ssi/2020/344/resources

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