Schools at risk of “mask anarchy” unless regulations on face coverings in education settings are made clearer, Harlow’s MP has said.

Robert Halfon, who chairs the Education Select Committee, insisted “definitive regulations” must be put in place on whether secondary school students should wear face coverings.

Teachers are being put under “enormous pressure” because of the current confusion, Mr Halfon added.

MPs also heard many teachers are “worried” about a full return of schools, with some opposition MPs pressing the Government to adopt a phased return in England.

With schools set to reopen in England on March 8, only secondary school students are being advised to wear masks when social distancing cannot be maintained.

Mr Halfon told the Commons: “Given that the schools minister (Nick Gibb) said that the wearing of masks by pupils on the school estate is advisory guidance, if a pupil or a parent on behalf of a pupil objects to comply with the wishes of a head teacher to wear a mask, are we not in danger of creating mask anarchy?

“Enormous pressure is being put on head teachers in Harlow because of the confusion, like Vic Goddard, head teacher of Harlow Passmores School.

“Is it not better to come down firmly on one side or another and provide clearly definitive regulations to help teaching staff?”

Mr Gibb responded: “Well we said very clearly that we strongly recommend students in secondary schools to wear face coverings in classrooms where it’s not possible to keep social distances between pupils.

“And we’ve also said for quite a number of months that where in communal areas of a school it’s not possible to maintain social distance, then staff and adults and students in secondary schools should also wear face masks.”

Downing Street has said children at primary school should not be made to wear face coverings.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Children in primary schools should not be asked to wear face coverings when they return to school on March 8.

“Face coverings are only necessary for pupils in year seven and above.”

A Department for Education (DfE) spokesman said: “Our guidance is clear: face coverings are only necessary for pupils in year seven and above and we are in contact with the council on the matter.”

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