Schools in England could be told to create “year bubbles” of up to 240 pupils to ensure all children can safely return to the classroom in September.
Under government plans, bubbles of entire secondary school year groups could be introduced to limit the number of interactions with pupils of other ages, accoring to draft proposals seen by the Huffington Post.
At the moment, primary school class sizes are capped at 15 pupils to reduce the number of interactions between young children.
These so-called “bubbles” are set to be doubled to 30 pupils.
Under the plans, students will also be told to sit at desks facing forwards in the same direction, rather than at circular tables, when all children return to school in the autumn, reports suggest.
There could be a greater focus on the core subjects of English and maths to help pupils catch up, as well as on tackling disruptive behaviour following lockdown, according to the publication
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is due to announce the final plans for reopening schools more widely to children on Thursday.
Speaking on Monday, Mr Williamson suggested the full return to school in September would not rely on social distancing restrictions in the same way as in pubs and shops.
“It’s not about one metre, it’s not about two metres,” he told BBC Breakfast, saying that safety would be based on “reducing the number of transmission points” within schools
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said a full return to schools in the autumn has to be done in a way that does not spark a new wave of coronavirus infections.
He said: “That is what the Government guidance is aimed at achieving. The processes involved are logistically problematic, so this is going to be the art of the possible, rather than an ideal solution.
“We are urging the Government to have a plan B in place in the event that we arrive at September and the situation with coronavirus is too precarious to allow a full reopening.
“Frankly, it seems to be on a knife-edge at the moment.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Pupils have been returning to school since June 1 – we’ve already given primary schools the flexibility to invite more children back if they have the capacity, and 1.5 million children were in school at the end of last week.
“We’ve said we want to see all children back at school in September – returning to full primary and secondary class sizes in a safe way.
“We continue to engage with school leaders, teaching unions and the wider sector about our plans and will publish full details later this week.”