Amid a surge in cases of the Omicron variant of Covid, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi announced the measures on Sunday

Pupils in a school
The rules will come into force from the start of the new term

Secondary school children will be given lateral flow tests on-site and asked to carry out Covid tests twice a week as students return to the classroom.

The new measures come amid fears of a return to homeschooling as it was confirmed that masks would also need to be worn when schools re-open.

Amid a surge in cases of the Omicron variant of Covid, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi announced the new measures on Sunday.

He said: “Being in face to face learning is undoubtedly the very best place for children and young people’s education and wellbeing, and my priority remains on keeping early years settings, schools, colleges and universities open so that face-to-face education can continue.”







Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi
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Image:

Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Pupils aged 12-15 are also being urged to get their second Covid jab as soon as possible.

Under the new measures all secondary schools have been asked to provide one on-site test for pupils ahead of their return to the classroom.

Secondary, college and university students and education staff and early years staff are then asked to continue to test themselves twice a week, or more frequently in the event of an outbreak.

It comes after it was announced that secondary school children in schools in England will also be told to wear masks when they return after the Christmas break.

England was the only one of the four UK nations where face coverings were not previously recommended in the classroom.

With daily infection numbers at record highs and people who test positive required to isolate for at least seven days, schools and other public services are facing disruption from staff shortages.







The measures are temporary
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Image:

PA)

The government has asked public sector managers to prepare for a worst-case scenario of 25% of staff absent in the weeks ahead.

Meanwhile, insiders have said schoolchildren could be forced to return to online learning as mass Covid-related absences hit the teaching workforce.

According to insiders, ministers fear too many teachers will be off sick for all schools to begin the new term as normal and back up plans to return to home schooling some children may be triggered.

Any move back to virtual lessons is seen as a last-resort measure, with other plans drawn up by civil servants including multiple classes being taught in larger halls.

One Whitehall source told the Mirror: “We are just being practical.

“It is very likely that some schools could have teachers off isolating so we are trying to figure out the best way to keep children in schools.

“If all of those aren’t possible, then some year groups or classes may have to go online but we are hoping this will be for literally only days.”

Nadhim Zahawi meanwhile said some remote learning would be necessary given the number of pupils and teachers who would have to self-isolate.

But he added that face-to-face teaching would continue to be the expected norm and exams would go ahead as planned this month.

Meanwhile, senior Conservative backbencher Rob Halfon voiced concern that new rules on face masks in schools risked damaging youngsters’ mental health.

The Government insisted the extra precaution would help keep pupils learning.

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