Echo of ‘Nazi stars’ in yellow badges for pupils exempt from wearing face masks

A boarding school has come under fire for asking pupils to wear a “yellow badge” to show they are exempt from using a face mask.

Farringtons School in Kent, which charges £34,050 per year for boarders, has made it compulsory for children to wear face masks in classrooms and corridors following a rise in cases of Covid-19. 

In a letter to parents, David Jackson, the school’s headmaster, said that pupils who are exempt from wearing masks “should wear a yellow badge to indicate this”.

The move has been criticised by family groups, who say it is “deeply inappropriate” given the “historic connotations” with yellow badges. 

Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe were forced to wear a yellow star so they could be easily marked out for segregation and discrimination.

Not an isolated case

Molly Kingsley, co-founder of parent campaign group UsForThem, said: “Asking children to wear some form of exemption marker has been quite common in schools and unbelievably this specific example of asking them to wear a yellow badge is not in isolation.

“It should not need explaining why this is a deeply inappropriate thing to ask a child to do. This has historic connotations which are deeply uncomfortable for many people.”

She added that children who are medically exempt from face masks may already be vulnerable, and asking them to wear a yellow badge will only serve to “stigmatise” them even more.

Mr Jackson wrote to parents to explain the move, stating: “In light of the increase in the number of cases, we have also decided to re-introduce the compulsory wearing of face masks in classrooms and other confined areas within the senior school, such as corridors.”

He said the new measures would be in place “until further notice”, adding: “Those pupils who were exempt from wearing a mask last academic year will once again be exempt and should wear a yellow badge to indicate this.”

Change in official guidance

Earlier this month, the Government updated official guidance to give local public health directors new powers to bypass Whitehall and introduce tougher restrictions on children.

The changes mean regional public health officials can impose masks on secondary school pupils without the move being sanctioned by Downing Street. 

Previously, local authorities needed the Government’s sign off before introducing new Covid-19 restrictions in schools.

The move comes amid concern about a potential rise in Covid-19 cases among children during the run-up to Christmas. 

More than half of children of secondary school age are estimated to have been infected with Covid-19 since the start of September.

A spokesman for Farringtons School said: “The decision to re-introduce masks was taken following Public Health England advice in response to a spike in cases after the October half-term holiday. 

“Throughout the pandemic, all of our actions have been aimed at keeping the whole school community safe.  

“The rationale for introducing a badge for mask exempt pupils is so that they are not repeatedly challenged about not wearing a mask.  On walking down a corridor, a teacher can immediately see that a mask is not required and therefore the wearing of a badge was intended to make it easier for those pupils.  

“The badge was chosen after looking at the government advice about exemption from face-covering badges. This has a yellow circle and so we went for a yellow badge rather than producing a specially designed one. No offence was intended and we are horrified that any such parallel should be drawn.”

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