Masks in class – appalling’ evidence summary’

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Copy to:


Your headteacher and head of governors if you wish

Your director of public health if you have the details.

Dear Department for Education

I am writing regarding your ‘Evidence Summary’ released yesterday to support your decision to mask secondary students all day at school.…/Evidence…

This summary is a blatant example of policy-based evidence-making and does not pass cursory review by anyone with basic statistical skills. It is simply not fit for purpose. The fact that you are using this to impose an intervention on millions of children, reflects the cavalier and negligent approach taken to young people throughout the pandemic. Sadly, it also lends weight to the assumption that this decision was simply a response to demands from teaching unions. Far from making children’s needs ‘primary consideration’ as required by the UNCRC, you have deprioritised them to adult interests. Nadhim Zahawi stated this policy would not be in place a day longer than necessary. You present no evidence as to why it is necessary, so you must withdraw this de facto mandate immediately.

First of all, your document notes that because of the ‘speed’ of the pandemic, it has not been possible to capture high-quality Randomised Clinical Trial data. We are 2 years in and the UK has one of the best trial infrastructures in the world. There is no excuse whatsoever for not having captured better quality RCT data this far into the pandemic. In fact, as pointed out to you repeatedly since August 2020, the WHO specifically recommends that policymakers do closely monitor and evaluate the impact where recommending face coverings for children. Our children should not be paying the price for your failure to prioritise proper evaluation of these NPIs 18 months ago.

Below are some comments on the ‘evidence’ you have presented which in no way supports your policy introduction- it in fact does the opposite.

The UK HSA literature review

This could not infer causation and was based on low-quality observational studies with mixed effects. Your own summary acknowledges this.

‘Study’ of 123 schools

Your observational study of 123 schools which decided to use masks for 3 weeks versus 1192 control schools has glaring issues. First of all, this study was conducted during a period when Omicron wasn’t circulating. It does not account for the immunity status of staff or students. The statistical weighting methods used to conclude a non-statistically significant 0.6% reduction in absence among pupils have NOT been peer-reviewed (and according to experts would be extremely unlikely to pass peer review). Notably, without applying this non-peer-reviewed weighting method, the control group without additional measures actually had lower absence rates!

This study clearly does NOT support your policy introduction on the basis of no demonstrable benefits. This is without even looking at the serious harms which you have also helpfully documented.

Adverse effects

In a survey of teachers, a staggering 94% thought that wearing face coverings has made communication between teachers and students more difficult, and 59% said it has made it a lot more difficult.

80% of pupils reported that wearing a face-covering made it difficult to communicate, and more than half felt wearing one made learning more difficult (55%). This is an extremely serious impact given that the primary function of a school is learning and communication – perhaps the Department has lost sight of this?

This survey data was from several months ago and also does not account for the cumulative strain on young people, especially those with hearing and communication difficulties.

In summary, if you were submitting this ‘evidence’ to NICE or the MHRA to support a medical intervention on millions of healthy children, you would be dismissed out of hand.

Your summary highlights multiple and severe downsides and NO statistically significant beneficial effect.

You must revoke this disproportionate and unevidenced mandate with immediate effect.

PS- How have you got on so far with the #masklikeaikid challenge?


Kind regards

Your name, your address