SCHOOLCHILDREN could be forced to go back to home learning under new plans drawn up by government officials.
Ministers are considering back up plans, created by civil sevants, amid rising coronavirus cases, and are discussing proposals to prioritise face to face teaching in a bid to prevent more education chaos.
But if they are hit with widespread staff absences pupils could go back to virtual learning from home – with other worst-case proposals include teaching multiple classes in school halls.
Ministers are yet to sign off on the last resort plans, and are keen to get all children back in the classroom on Tuesday.
Secondary school pupils will also have to wear facemasks in the classroom again – with ministers desperately trying to avoid another home-schooling fiasco.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi announced the measure to help “maximise the number of children in Schools”.
The new rules come as a string of hugely positive studies show Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.
Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.
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The Department for Education is also asking headteachers to prioritise primary, GCSE and A-level pupils for face-to-face teaching.
Education chiefs scrapped exams for two years after pupils were forced out of the classroom for months – instead bringing in teacher assessments.
Schools currently have enough Covid tests to safely reopen when term starts next week, but could close if the virus wipes out a lot of the workforce.
All students and staff are expected to be tested for the virus on day one of the spring term as planned after the Education Secretary secured millions of kits.
It means that there will be enough to test all pupils when schools reopen on Tuesday, but a global lateral flow shortage could shut classes down in the weeks that follow.
Despite self-isolation rules being changed, teachers might be forced to stay at home for 10 days after testing positive.
It means parents could find themselves plunged into the chaos of last year's spring term, with pupils and teachers repeatedly being sent home unnecessarily.
Many may have to go back to home schooling or rush to find childcare at the last minute.
Ministers are said to be desperate to avoid a repeat of last year's fiasco when students returned to school for one day before being sent home.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “Being in the classroom is undoubtedly the very best place for children and I'm looking forward to welcoming pupils back next week to continue their face-to-face learning, which is so important for their education and wellbeing.
“There is no doubt that the Omicron variant presents challenges but the entire education sector has responded with a Herculean effort, and for that I thank each and every one of you.
“The Prime Minister and I have been clear that education is our number one priority.
"These measures will bolster our support schools as we do everything in our power to minimise disruption.”
Zahawi delivered 28million test packs to schools between December 6 and 17, and a further 17.6million are to be sent out by January 14.
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