Children in England are set to return to school full-time in September, following months of being schooled at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
But school may look a little different from usual when pupils in England return in the autumn, with entire year groups expected to stay in separate “bubbles”.
What are school year bubbles?
A draft of the plans, shared as part of a consultation and set to be announced later this week, has been published by the Huffington Post.
The bubbles mean that groups of up to 240 pupils could be kept apart within a school, with a separate time for starting and finishing the day.
However, it could also mean that all pupils within a particular bubble would be sent home if there was a Covid-19 case in the group.
Instead of relying on social distancing, the aim of these bubbles is to limit the points at which the infection could be spread.
This is by keeping pupils in separate, isolated groups throughout the school day, with their own breaks and lunchtimes.
Regular hand-washing will also take place, but temperature checks and masks are not expected, either for staff or pupils.
However, if a pupil does show coronavirus symptoms, then parents will have to collect their child.
The leaked guidance notes that while waiting to be collected, the student should be kept two metres away from the supervising teacher.
“If that is not possible, in the case of a young child or one with complex needs, staff should wear full PPE – disposable gloves, a disposable apron, a fluid-resistant surgical face mask and in some cases eye goggles,” the guidance explains.
How will the bubbles work in primary schools?
Some schools started back in June, and in primary schools that have been open, bubbles have been limited to groups of up to 15 children.
However, during the autumn term, bubbles are expected to be a whole class of 30 pupils in primary schools.
Although there will not be any fixed social distancing requirements for pupils in primary school, teachers will be expected to maintain social distancing at the front of a class.
How will the bubbles work in secondary schools?
In secondary schools, entire year groups could be kept apart in protective bubbles.
Plans for the autumn could include a full secondary year group, which if there were eight classes, could be 240 pupils in total.
The leaked documents suggest that social distancing in secondary schools will be one metre, but only where possible.
Is attendance compulsory for school children in September?
Attendance for school children in autumn will be compulsory, and penalty fines will once again be issued to parents who do not send their children back to school. This will be at the usual fine of £60, which rises to £120 each if you do not pay within 21 days.
The Gov.uk website adds, “If you do not pay the fine after 28 days you may be prosecuted for your child’s absence from school.”