A new study, led by experts at the University of Nottingham, will aim to look at the impact of face masks on young people in schools, in order to develop an evidence base to prepare for any future pandemic.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, rules regarding the use of face masks in schools were changeable - sometimes they were mandatory and other times they were not. In the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, there was little time for experts to fully understand the impact on young people of having to wear face masks in schools, and whether the benefits outweighed the costs.
The Face It study, led by Professor Kavita Vedhara from the School of Medicine at the University, will gather evidence that will help schools understand how face masks affect their pupils with a view to helping schools prepare and protect their pupils in the future.
The group of experts from the University will invite year 12 and 13 students from the Nottingham University Academy of Science and Technology (NUAST) in the city to participate in the study - which will take place over five weeks.
Students will be free to decide if they want to take part in the research and will be able to withdraw at any time.
"During the fast-paced and changing nature of the pandemic there was little opportunity to understand how face masks were affecting children and young people in school settings. This study is the first step in trying to understand what young people think about face masks and their experiences of wearing them. We hope that this study will eventually enable us to address some of the unanswered questions around the use of face masks in schools. “Our ultimate aim is to contribute to the evidence on how face masks can best be used, should the need arise in the future. We are grateful to all the staff and students from NUAST who are helping us to gather this important scientific data that may influence how schools protect their pupils in the future.” - Professor Kavita Vedhara from the School of Medicine
As part of the study, students will be randomly spilt into one of two groups – the school rules group, or the face mask group.
Those in the school rules group will be asked to follow school policy on wearing face coverings and to follow this for five weeks.
Those who are allocated to the face mask group will be asked to wear a face covering while inside and on school premises in both supervised and unsupervised lessons for five weeks.
During these five weeks, pupils in both groups will be asked to complete a brief anonymous survey once a week which will ask questions about their views on face coverings and how they affect them and also their experiences of being part of the research.
Bob White, Headteacher at NUAST, said: "The use of face masks in schools during the pandemic led to challenges for both students and staff. Working with the University as part of this study will help our students contribute to the research base on the impact of mask wearing in schools. This will allow the University of Nottingham team to determine the best, research led response in future pandemics.
“In addition, our students will be able to work with the research teams to see first-hand how scientific trials are designed and implemented. This will give valuable insight to our students, many of whom study STEM based curriculum."
More information is available from Professor Kavita Vedhara from the School of Medicine at firstname.lastname@example.org