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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