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Face masks and Covid tests for school kids won’t be ‘compulsory’

The guidance on masks and tests won’t be enforceable

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News broke earlier in the week that secondary school students would have to wear face masks and take twice-weekly Covid tests when they return to classrooms from March 8th.

It’s now been confirmed that neither of these measures will be enforceable, with schools told they won’t actually be able to make students wear a mask.

This is despite the government saying that secondary school pupils would need to wear them, both in classrooms and in the corridor.

However, according to the finer details of the ‘operational guidance’ for schools, ‘no pupil should be denied education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering.’



While before Christmas a lot of secondary school and college students were wearing masks in corridors and communal areas, the ‘roadmap out of lockdown’ revealed this was being expanded so kids would have to wear them in classrooms too.

The official document states: “The government also recommends that the use of face coverings in Higher Education, Further Education and secondary schools is extended for a limited period to all indoor environments – including classrooms – unless 2m social distancing can be maintained.

“Face coverings are now also recommended in early years and primary schools for staff and adult visitors in situations where social distancing between adults is not possible, for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas.

“All children will once again be expected to attend school, as they were in the autumn term.”

The move had divided opinion among parents, with some saying they might keep their kids off school if they’re forced to wear masks, while others said they were in favour of it.



As well as face masks, it’s now been revealed that the twice-weekly Covid tests secondary students were meant to be taking are also ‘not compulsory’.

Education minister Nick Gibb confirmed that testing will be voluntary for pupils, saying that it remains ‘highly recommended’ to do so, however.

Mr Gibb added that it will not be a case of ‘no test, no school’, also clarifying that face masks will not be compulsory in schools, even though the government strongly advises pupils to use them.

He told Good Morning Britain: “No, they’re not compulsory but we highly recommend it, it’s everybody doing everything we can to identify asymptomatic cases of Covid, helping to reduce the transmission.

“The first three tests will be taken in the school that will show the students how to do it most effectively and it’s the students themselves that will do it at home with supervision by their parents.”

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More than half of young people in the North West say lockdown has impacted their mental health

Research also found the pandemic has made three out of five young people in our region feel anxious

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New research has revealed that more than half of young people in the North West believe lockdown has negatively impacted their mental health

On top of that, the research also found that the pandemic has made three out of five young people in our region feel anxious, with more than 60% of young people not turning to family or friends for mental health support due to worries of being judged or misunderstood.

The research was conducted by Stop.Breathe.Think, a new mental health service for people aged 21 or under run by national youth charity Snow-Camp.



Unlike other free mental health services, Stop.Breathe.Think offers young people up to 12 weekly one hour counselling sessions, as well as a free 24/7 text support service.

With no wait times and a team of more than 40 specialised counsellors, the service helps provide vital mental health access to young people at a time when they need it the most.

Alarmingly, the average age of young people getting in touch is 14 and some of the most common issues they report include anxiety, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

Furthermore, the study discovered that one in three young people in the North West are put off seeking mental health support due to wait times.

Other reasons young people in the North West are put off from seeking mental health support include being scared of being judged (34%) and not knowing where to go to access support (31%).


Stop.Breathe.Think is completely confidential and manned by a team of counsellors who specialise in a variety of youth mental health issues, ensuring that every young person receives specialised, targeted support from the start.

Since its launch, over 500 young people have independently reached out for support – which currently takes place via video call – with more than 1,000 sessions delivered through the service.

After receiving counselling via Stop.Breathe.Think, young people are connected with local partners and organisations to continue receiving support if they need it – since completing their counselling sessions, 70% said that they now feel in a better place mentally.

One young person from Manchester said of the service: “Stop.Breathe.Think has given me tools to actively work on my mental health and deal with low points in the future. I’ve felt listened to unconditionally which has made me talk about things I never thought I could.”

They added: “I now have new strategies and ways of thinking about my mental health and have already seen a dramatic difference after 6 sessions and have finished feeling excited to continue progressing.”

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Marcus Rashford calls for guarantee free school meals will continue over summer holidays

Well done Marcus!

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Кирилл Венедиктов / Wikimedia

Marcus Rashford is calling for a guarantee that the free school meal scheme will continue over the upcoming summer holidays.

The Manchester United star forced the government to U-turn on the issue last year, and is once again calling on ministers to keep the support going over the holidays.

Rashford relied on free school meals when he was growing up, saying that if his family had received help in the summer it would have made a ‘massive, massive difference’.

Marcus Rashford / Twitter

During the lockdown school closures last year vouchers were offered, but the government had resisted calls to continue the coupons – worth £15 a week – over the summer until Rashford got involved and piled pressure on ministers.

The striker didn’t stop there, also shaming the government into supporting families in need over the holidays in November via a Covid winter grant scheme.

As it stands, since the first lockdown more than 300,000 additional children have become eligible for free school dinners, with the total number of people able to access the scheme rising to 1.63 million in October.

No10 / Flickr

Rashford told The Mirror: “I definitely think it needs to be extended and the reason why I say that is, I’m just going back to what it was like for me in the summers.

“It’s much more difficult for my mum to keep on top of. Obviously in my household there were four children so as a single parent it was obviously tough for her.

“But when we were all in school or in high school, she can rest a little bit because she knows that we’re having a meal there, and then potentially she only has to worry about one meal, which is dinner time.”

Fairholme Primary School

He continued: “So having free school meals throughout summer holidays for me would have made a massive, massive difference.

“And I feel like what’s happened this year, like the pandemic, it’s affected everyone in different ways.

“I just don’t see there being anything wrong with extending free school meals, like it’s going to do a lot more good than bad so I definitely think that that should happen.”

The footballer isn’t the only one calling for the scheme to continue, with Children’s Commissioner Rachel de Souza also asking for free school meals to be extended into the summer holidays.

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Student suffers severe heart failure after drinking four cans of energy drink a day

‘I believe they are very addictive and far too accessible to young children’

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AlienFood/Wikimedia & Austin Kirk/Flickr

A young man who consumed two litres of energy drink a day was admitted to intensive care with severe heart failure.

According to a leading medical journal, the university student landed himself in hospital after drinking four cans of energy drink per day.

The 21-year-old spent nearly two months in intensive care due to heart failure, with the British Medical Journal stating this was ‘potentially related to excessive energy drink consumption’ in a report.

According to the report, the man drank four 500ml energy drinks every day for two years, becoming so ill that medics thought he might require an organ transplant.

The patient went on to describe his medical episode as ‘traumatising’, eventually seeking medical help after he suffered from weight loss and shortness of breath for roughly four months.

Daniel Juřena / Flickr

Doctors performed blood tests, scans, and ECG readings, and found that he had both kidney and heart failure – however, the kidney failure was discovered to be linked to a previously undiagnosed condition.

Each energy drink the man was consuming contained around 160mg of caffeine, and medics said that ‘energy drink-induced cardiotoxicity’ was the most likely cause of the severe heart failure.

In the report, the authors from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust wrote: “We report a case of severe biventricular heart failure potentially related to excessive energy drink consumption in a 21-year-old man.”

They said the conclusion to their report ‘adds to the growing concern in the literature about the potential cardiotoxic effects of energy drinks’, adding that the man’s heart function seems to have returned to normal nine months later but with ‘mildly impaired function’.

AlienFood / Wikimedia

The recovered patient added his own thoughts to the article, saying: “When I was drinking up to four energy drinks per day, I suffered from tremors and heart palpitations, which interfered with my ability to concentrate on daily tasks and my studies at university.

“I also suffered from severe migraine headaches which would often occur during the periods when I did not drink energy drink; this also restricted my ability to perform day-to-day tasks and even leisurely activities such as going to the park or taking a walk.”

He added: “I think there should be more awareness about energy drinks and the effect of their contents.

“I believe they are very addictive and far too accessible to young children. I think warning labels, similar to smoking, should be made to illustrate the potential dangers of the ingredients in energy drink.”

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