Schools will give priority to pupils in Year 11 and 13 if they are forced to close in the New Year, the latest Government guidance has said.
Education settings have so far remained open during the second wave of coronavirus and full closures as seen at the beginning of the pandemic are highly unlikely, according to the Department of Education (DfE).
But under new contingency plans published on Friday, ministers will consider future closures on a case-by-case basis, with priority for in-person teaching being given to older pupils, vulnerable students and children of key workers.
DfE said that while all primary pupils would be permitted to attend even if the contingency plans are imposed, students who will sit exams next summer would be among few students allowed to access in-person secondary education.
“Where the contingency framework is implemented, secondary schools should only allow vulnerable children, children of critical workers, pupils in years 11 and 13 and other pupils due to take external exams this academic year, to attend,” the guidance says.
The advice states that “high-quality remote education should be provided for all other pupils”.
The same suggestions are made for students in middle schools, while boarding school students who cannot return home would be educated in their boarding houses.
“Any restrictions on education would only be as a last resort and may only be initiated following a ministerial decision,” the guidance adds.
It comes as the DfE has banned rota systems in the event of further closures, an idea first proposed by education secretary Gavin Williamson in August.
Rotas were initially mooted the week before schools reopened full-time in September as part of prospective ‘four-tier’ lockdown regulations.
However the department has now said that “schools should not put in place rotas” despite demands from teaching unions in light of the numbers of staff and students who have had to self-isolate.