The Prime Minister is facing a Tory backlash over face masks in the classroom as 32 MPs demand that the measure is dropped after Easter. Boris Johnson has been told in a letter from the MPs that it is “just not good enough” to impose the measure on millions of secondary pupils given that the evidence that it will help prevent the spread of coronavirus is “pretty thin”. It comes amid rising pressure on the Government over its latest guidance on masks, which says they should be worn by secondary pupils in lessons as well as anywhere indoors at school where it is not possible to socially distance. This goes much further than the earlier official recommendations on face masks in secondary schools. During the autumn term, guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) said face masks should be worn in corridors and communal areas in parts of the country under Tier 2 or Tier 3 restrictions. Elsewhere, it was left to the discretion of headteachers. Mr Johnson said the new measure would be in place at least for the rest of this term to offer “even greater reassurance” that face-to-face teaching is safe. Signatories of the letter include Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, Huw Merriman, Philip Davies and Greg Smith. The MPs have urged Mr Johnson to ensure that face masks are no longer a requirement in the classroom following the Easter break, which is when the Government has said it will review its guidance. Sir Graham said that the welfare of children must remain at the “forefront of our minds” through the pandemic. “Requiring children to wear masks in the classroom will damage their education and inhibit their communication with teachers and with their peers,” he told The Telegraph. “The psychological damage being done to young people who need to see each others’ faces to communicate with each other is immense.” Covid rates, as well as hospital admission and death rates, were now dropping rapidly, while at the same time an “ever larger percentage of the population” was being protected by the vaccine, he said. “By the time schools come back after Easter we should be able to look forward to a very low risk environment and a sensible reduction in Covid measures,” Sir Graham added. Officials at the DfE say that while masks are strongly encouraged, it is not a legal requirement and pupils should not be “denied education” as a result of non-compliance. But earlier this week, The Telegraph revealed that some schools were telling pupils they would need to sit at the back of the class and would be banned from eating lunch with their friends if they refused to wear a mask. Elsewhere, students have been warned they will be banned from after-school clubs, drama and PE lessons and told to approach the school through a separate entrance if they do not have a mask on. Mr Davies, MP for Shipley, said the evidence that face masks reduced transmission in schools was “pretty thin to be perfectly honest”. “In order for the state in effect to insist on things, there has to be an overwhelming case to do so and by the Government's own admission, no such overwhelming case exists, in fact no case at all. “It is basically being done on the basis of a precautionary principle – even if there is no evidence we will do it just in case. I am afraid to say that is just not good enough.” Mr Smith, MP for Buckingham, said he did not believe it was necessary for pupils to wear face masks in the classroom, adding that it would make it “extremely difficult” to teach. The success of the vaccine programme, as well as the rollout of mass testing at secondary schools, meant there was no need to introduce face masks in the classroom now when they were not required in September. “It is vital that the return to school enables children to confidently discuss and debate, which they cannot do with facemasks on,” Mr Smith said. “It is imperative they can at last have some normality so that they can catch up with their learning at long last.” Meanwhile, hundreds of medics, academics, teachers and parents signed an open letter to the Education Secretary urging him to either publish evidence that shows face masks in the classroom are necessary or reverse the measure. The letter, organised by the parent campaign group UsForThem, said the measure had been introduced “without evaluation of potential harms”. A government spokesperson said the guidance would be reviewed by Easter, adding that it would “follow the best available scientific and public health advice at the time”.