Masks for kids: High Court evidence is that risk was never considered

The statement

“At the High Court hearing today, 30 April 2021, it was revealed to the Court that neither the Tapton School Academy Trust (which runs 4 secondary schools) nor the government had conducted any assessment of the risk of harms from requiring children to wear masks in schools.

At the same time the Court received unchallenged evidence that wearing masks could result in causing pulmonary fibrosis, being “among the worst diseases that can be suffered or witnessed. It kills exceedingly slowly, by ever-thickening matrix formation, a kind of scar tissue, obstructing the alveoli and reducing their air exchange. The illness worsens over time, and suffocates the victim very gradually. Nothing is available to the sufferer from conventional medicine.”     

Also unchallenged was evidence of psychological harm suffered by children because of the pressure upon them to wear masks and the need to conform to the authority of teachers and their peers.

Against this background, the child (whose name and school remain subject to a Court anonymity order) asked the Court for an order stopping the school encouraging mask-wearing by children.

Roger Ter Haar QC (Sitting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court) has reserved his judgment but indicated he expects to provide his decision in writing by next Wednesday 05 May 2021.”

The source

My take on it

Tapton Secondary School is located in the UK, so I gather that this action is proceeding in the High Court of England and Wales.

I have my own view as to the wisdom of wearing masks in response to Covid.  Those views have been formed by examining some of the arguments and evidence for and against.

Not everyone who does take that approach, reaches the same conclusion as I have.

And of course not everyone takes that evidence-based approach.

The question is, Should we expect that evidence-based approach from government?

Of course we should.

And should we expect that evidence-based approach of those who are entrusted with the care of our children, and specifically of schools and teachers  – in loco parentis?

Of course we should.

To me it is unsurprising that an institution such as a school should just follow government guidelines unquestioningly.  I witnessed the same attitude early last year when I contacted aged care institutions in Australia in an effort to forestall what I saw coming.  They pointed me to the government.

The government formally holds that trust.  The government is all the more responsible for weighing the evidence for and against any policy; of assessing the impact.  The evidence is that in this case the UK government did not.

That is a breach of trust. 

Risk Oversight and Strategy Need to be Better Integrated.

The comment:

‘Several of the conference speakers commented on the apparent disconnect between an organization’s risk management and strategic planning activities. Unfortunately, in many organizations, risk management is viewed as a compliance or regulatory activity that needs to be done to satisfy some external demand for risk management. Often that means risk management is relegated to a lower-level, nonstrategic position that addresses important, but not strategy-defeating issues. For some reason, business leaders continue to struggle to remember the important connection between “risk and return.” As a result, the organization’s risk management efforts are inadequately integrated with strategic planning. This may partially be driven by how risk managers have been leading their risk identification and assessment efforts.

Rather than beginning the conversation with a discussion about what drives value for the organization in order to pinpoint key risks, the conversation begins with what risks are on the horizon (e.g., what keeps you up at night?). By starting the conversation with what is strategically important to the organization and then asking what might prevent that from being successful, we might better assist business leaders in seeing how risk management can be positioned to provide strategic value.’

The source:

Mark Beasley, Deloitte Professor of Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) and Director of the ERM Initiative, NC State University


My take on it:

There are several gems in Beasley’s entire article, including the potential of the media to precipitate a chain reaction to an initial risk event.

As for the governance ‘disconnect’ world-wide between RM and strategic planning, a sad irony prevails in Australia:

  • ISO31000 (2009) mentions strategic plan(ning) 3 times;
  • the associated 2010 Handbook on practical application of AS/NZS 31000 mentions it 12 times, including this very helpful pointer:  The best place to first implement AS/NZS ISO 31000’s process for managing risk is the strategic plan and supporting business plans, after which each group should work through their operational risks. 
  • HB 2010 was nominally directed at NPOs, but its content was intentionally generic, and very practical.
  • In 2013 SA/SNZ decided to release a further Handbook, nominally directed at For Profits.  It reflected the same general message as its NPO peer, but with fewer references to strategic planning (ie 10), and was in my opinion less clear in how to actually apply the Standard.
  • The Corporate Governance Guidelines released by the ASX Corporate Governance Council (CGC) in 2014 are replete with references to risk, but do not mention strategic planning once!
  • If anyone is looking for practical assistance on implementing ISO31000-compliant RM in their organisation, I would refer them to the 2010 Handbook.