Boris Johnson accused of surrendering to unions over masks in classrooms

MINISTERS were accused of surrendering to unions after recommending secondary school students wear face masks in class.

One Tory MP said they feared the decision was made to stop a kicking from the unions amid a surge in Omicron cases.

Ministers insisted the change was made to maximise the number of pupils in school, protecting face-to-face education. Currently, face coverings are recommended in just communal areas.

The guidance will be reviewed on January 26.

Six big unions had earlier questioned why Westminster had a different approach to Scotland and Wales when using the same evidence. Tory MP Robert Halfon, chair of the Education Select Committee, said: “My big worry is how this will affect disadvantaged children who may have a disability or are deaf.

“What I don’t understand and what the government will need to explain is why they are not required for offices but they are for schools.”

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Children’s Minister Will Quince last month told the committee that there was limited evidence masks are efficient in schools.

Dr Mary Bousted, National Education Union joint boss, said: “The recommendation on wearing face masks in secondary school classrooms is overdue – but it should be a requirement.”

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “These measures will bolster our support for schools as we do everything in our power to minimise disruption.”

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A further 7,000 air cleaning units will be rolled out to classrooms too. And Ofsted has put its checks on hold, urging heads to focus on their leadership roles.

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