EDUCATION leaders have warned the latest guidance to get children back to school in September could put extra pressure on teachers and put them at risk from burnout.

Schools have been told to keep children in class or year-sized "bubbles", while older pupils should be encouraged to be kept away from other groups of students and staff, start and finish times should be staggered, and "walking buses" considered to reduce use of public transport.

Education secretary Mr Williamson said: "It is critical to ensure that no child loses more time in education and that from September all children who can be at school, are at school.

"Schools and colleges will need to work with families to secure regular attendance from the start of the new academic year with the reintroduction of mandatory attendance."

But concerns have been raised about the logistics involved, with the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) warning the challenge was "mind-boggling".

Chris Zarraga, director of Schools North East, a network representing more than 1,000 schools in the region, said: "The guidance released for September has come just over two weeks from the end of term, leaving little time for school leaders to plan the significant logistical changes that will need to take place to bring pupils back safely, alongside revising their curriculum and planning for the ‘catch up’.

"This increased burden on school staff who have worked tirelessly since lockdown began, will significantly impact staff wellbeing and put them at risk of burnout.

"Furthermore the confirmation that the Department for Education will go ahead with phonics testing and SATs, as well as a full suite of GCSE and A Level assessments in the summer, puts further undue pressure on our school leaders and teaching staff.

"This is at a time when they need to focus first and foremost on ensuring that school is a physically and mentally safe place and helping students get to a place where they are ready to learn again.

'"The North-East has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic as existing high levels of deprivation have been exacerbated. With many of our families facing increased financial hardship and bereavements the focus needs to be on recovery rather than testing and inspections."

Emma Parker, from the County Durham branch of the National Education Union, raised concerns about transport in rural areas, where the majority of children use buses, as well as the size of "bubbles", pressure on school budgets because of extra costs involved and increased work loads for staff managing different start and finish times.

She said: "It sounds like a lot of small things but when you add it all up it's a very big headache."

She added: "We absolutely want all our children back in September but it has to be safe. I don't think the Government has done any favours by releasing this 11 days before the six-week holiday. The amount of work its adding for school leaders is ridiculous.

"We need to be able to reassure families that it's safe because some of them will scared about sending their children back."

The advice says whole schools, or all pupils in a year group, may have to self-isolate at home if schools have two or more confirmed coronavirus cases within a fortnight.

The guidance insists school closures "may not be necessary" if there are a number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 on site if schools implement the recommended controls.

Mrs Parker added: "We could have children and staff in and out of school like yo-yos which could have a more negative impact."