FACE coverings have been made mandatory for secondary school and college pupils in Bury following a Government U-turn.

Students will be required to wear masks in communal areas and corridors for as long as the borough remains subject to additional coronavirus restrictions.

However, they will not need to wear them in classrooms.

The Prime Minister last week announced that the Government was abandoning advice stating that pupils in Year 7 and above did not need to wear face coverings.

It followed fresh guidance issued by the World Health Organisation which stated that children aged over 12 should wear masks.

However, the policy U-turn has elicited concerns from teachers, trade unions and health experts.

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson said: “Our priority is to get children back to school safely.

“At each stage we have listened to the latest medical and scientific advice.

“We have therefore decided to follow the World Health Organisation’s new advice.

“In local lockdown areas children in year 7 and above should wear face coverings in communal spaces.

“Outside of local lockdown areas face coverings won’t be required in schools, though schools will have the flexibility to introduce measures if they believe it is right in their specific circumstances.

“I hope these steps will provide parents, pupils and teachers with further reassurance.”

Responding to the announcement, Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, said: “The latest announcement on face coverings raises serious questions about whether the Government is seriously following the scientific advice or is simply prioritising political expediency in order to meet the Prime Minister’s wish to ensure that every school reopens fully at the start of term come what may.

“This latest Government U-turn will raise questions about the statement issued by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers last Sunday that there is a low risk of Coronavirus transmission in schools.

“Face masks and visors can help in the battle against Coronavirus if used correctly, but they are not a substitute for stringent social distancing, good hand hygiene and enhanced cleaning.”