SECONDARY school pupils in Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn and Pendle.with have to wear masks, when they return to the classroom next week.

Face coverings will have to be worn in communal areas and corridors from Tuesday.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson made the change in policy yesterday in areas where local lockdowns have been introduced while elsewhere headteachers will have the option to ask pupils to wear them..

Blackburn with Darwen Council, where eight wards are under tight coronavirus restrictions and nine wards (including all of Darwen] have been released from them, has opted for a borough-wide introduction of the mask-wearing rule for clarity and simplicity for students, parents and teachers.

Lancashire County Council has adopted the new guidance for Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle and Preston where the tighter Covid-19 restrictions are in force but not for other boroughs, including Ribble Valley and Rossendale, where the rules have been relaxed.

Dominic Harrison, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s director of public health: “We are advising all our high schools and post-16 settings in the borough to use face coverings and are working with schools to ensure this is part of detailed risk assessments already in place. Many wards in the borough are in a high risk area and it is important that pupils, parents and staff feel reassured that school is a safe place to be. We are looking forward to welcoming back all our children and staff following the summer break. Returning to school is so vital for our children’s education and wellbeing. Arrangements are also in place for those children who are exempt either for medical or other reasons."

Cllr Julie Gunn, Blackburn with Darwen's Councils education boss, said: "We have decided that the guidance on wearing face coverings in communal areas should apply to all o of secondary and post 16 schools for reasons of clarity and simplicity for students, parents and teachers."

In county council areas the wearing of face coverings in schools will at the discretion of the headteacher except in Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, and Preston.

Covid safety arrangements include an enhanced cleaning programme, additional signage and one-way systems..

Cllr Phillippa Williamson, the county council's schools boss, said: “As the start of term approaches, I would like to encourage parents to think about the practicalities of returning to school, finding out as much information as possible to reassure themselves that school is the best place for their child to be."

Seven wards in Pendle covering Nelson and Brierfield are also under the tougher regime.

Masks were made compulsory on public transport in England from mid-June.