UK government changes its mind on masks in English schools

LONDON (AFP) – The government has reversed policy on wearing facemasks in schools in England, sparking fresh criticism about its handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

Ministers had insisted face coverings were not necessary when children go back to school from next week after nearly six months out of the classroom amid concern about a rise in infections.

But in new guidance late on Tuesday, the British government advised that secondary school students and staff should wear face coverings in corridors and communal areas.

The change is being seen as another U-turn, just weeks after ministers were forced to scrap the use of an algorithm which gave 17- and 18-year-olds lower-than-expected exam grades.

Teaching unions have been calling for English schools to follow guidance in Scotland, which has a separate education system, that requires pupils to cover their nose and mouth between lessons.

But while welcoming the change, critics including the main opposition Labour party said ministers had shirked their responsibility by leaving enforcement to individual schools.