School year groups could form separate ‘bubbles’ as Education Secretary spells out plan for September reopening
Teachers will be ordered to stay at the front of classes and steer clear of face-to-face contact of pupils. (PA)
School year groups could be kept apart in separate “bubbles” under government plans to get children in England back into the classroom in September.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will outline the proposals on Thursday at the first government press conference since ministers scrapped the daily coronavirus updates in June.
According to a leaked version of the guidance, seen by The Telegraph, social distancing will not be required in schools at all times, with pupils instead split into bubbles by class or year group in a bid to limit the transmission of the virus.
Teachers will be ordered to stay at the front of classes and steer clear of face-to-face contact of pupils, with classrooms reconfigured to allow as much space as possible.
According to the leaked guidance, large gatherings such as school assemblies will be banned, while schools are told to stagger lunch and break times to avoid mixing between year groups.
Teachers are meanwhile told to overhaul their behaviour policies to allow for sanctions if pupils breach the guidelines — but should only expel unruly pupils as a “last resort”.
And schools are asked to make “substantial modifications” to the teaching curriculum at the start of the year if required to help them fill in gaps in “core knowledge” after months of lockdown.
Mr Williamson is due to make a Commons statement on the “autumn opening of education settings” on Thursday morning, before chairing a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
The Education Secretary’s department has come in for criticism after it was forced to abandon plans to reopen all primary schools at the start of June.
The Cabinet minister this week warned that parents who fail to send their children back to school as lockdown restrictions continue to ease will face fines.
“It is going to be compulsory for children to return to school," he said.
"Unless there is a good reason for the absnece then we will be looking at the fact that we will be imposing fines on families if they are not sending their children back."