Education secretary defends school face masks U-turn after Tory backlash

a little boy looking at the camera: Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA

© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA

The UK education secretary, Gavin Williamson, has defended the government’s U-turn on pupils in England wearing face masks in schools after coming under fire from Conservative MPs over the move.

Just hours after the cabinet minister Alok Sharma said on Tuesday morning there were no plans to review the policy amid pressure from headteachers, the government performed an about-turn and said pupils would no longer be advised against using face masks in secondary schools.

Related: From face masks to Covid testing: 11 times the UK government has U-turned

Instead, in places with high levels of Covid-19, such as lockdown areas including Greater Manchester, children in year 7 and above are now being advised to wear face coverings in school corridors where social distancing is more difficult.

The move – which came after Scotland confirmed secondary pupils must wear masks in communal areas,

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Who is Julian Lewis? The Tory MP who lost his Conservative whip

PA wire
PA wire

Julian Lewis, a previously scarcely-known backbencher, has been thrust into a headline-maker this week after a “coup” saw him installed as the new chair of one of Parliament’s most prestigious select committees.

The New Forest East MP was named chairman of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee on Tuesday.

But hours later a furious Boris Johnson ensured he was kicked out of the parliamentary Conservative Party for refusing to bow to their demand to vote for former cabinet minister Chris Grayling as the new chair.

So who is the man at the centre of all this Westminster drama? Here’s what you need to know.

What is the Chris Grayling row all about?

Downing Street had expected to shoo-in the controversial Transport Minister Mr Grayling into ISC chair without any issue.

But instead Mr Lewis won over opposition committee members and got the position, condemning Downing Street’s “improper request” for

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