The Government has ‘passed the buck’ with its guidance on face masks, says a headteacher.

Sarah Brinkley, executive headteacher for John Mason School and Fitzharrys School in Abingdon, wants the Government to take more responsibility and give clearer guidance to schools.

As a member of the Association of School and College Leaders, Ms Brinkley said there was a “unanimous chorus” of headteachers asking for the Government to make its guidance clearer and not discretionary.

On Tuesday Boris Johnson made a U-turn and decided to advise against using face masks in secondary schools.

The Prime Minister's decision has led to confusion and many are unsure what advice to follow.

The Government has said pupils in schools in areas that are still under localised lockdown restrictions would need to wear face coverings in corridors where social distancing is more difficult.

However, in areas of England not subject to tighter restrictions, including Oxfordshire, headteachers will be able to decide whether their pupils wear face coverings.

Ms Brinkley said: “Just tell us. We are not medically trained, what we do is teach children … to put that decision at our feet, I think, is passing the buck.”

She added: “It’s a standing joke in the teacher community that the [Department of Education] guidance is a bit like the pirate’s code in Pirates of the Caribbean – it’s just guidance.

“That’s ridiculous. It is a pandemic. It is not a joke. Clear guidance is needed because people’s lives are at stake.”

Ms Brinkley said her schools had already performed a risk assessment before the latest U-turn and were recommending students to wear a covering between lessons, but this will not be policed.

The 49-year-old said pupils at the Abingdon secondary schools can wear a mask in class, but only if they have a reason to do so.

She said: “If a child absolutely has a good reason and chooses to wear one in class, we should support that child in being in school.”

Oxfordshire County Council is advising schools simply follow the national guidelines for face coverings in education.

National guidelines highlight the importance of returning to school, stating that it is vital for children’s education and for their wellbeing.

It adds that time out of school is detrimental for children’s cognitive and academic development, particularly for disadvantaged children.

The Government guidance also states: “This is guidance, not mandatory activity, and any legal exemptions that apply to the wearing of face coverings in shops and on public transport also apply to this new advice.”

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The guidance is not recommending face coverings as a necessity and suggests that schools have ‘a system of control’ which will help implement social distancing.

The Government guidance for secondary school states: “Schools and colleges will have the discretion to require face coverings in communal areas where social distancing cannot be safely managed.”

However, The World Health Organisation published a statement last week about children and face coverings.

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It advised that children aged 12 and over should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults, especially when social distancing is difficult and transmission is high in the area.

There are still exemptions for individuals who cannot wear a face covering due to a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability. The guidance asks for teachers to be sensitive to those needs.