SECONDARY school and college students in York and North Yorkshire will be asked to take regular coronavirus tests at home when they return to school next month.

The Prime Minister has confirmed that all pupils will return to class from March 8, but the return of students in secondary schools and colleges could be staggered due to the logistics of mass testing.

Secondary school and college students and staff are also being advised to wear face coverings in all areas, including classrooms, where social distancing cannot be maintained until Easter under strengthened protective measures.

Pupils in secondary schools and colleges will be asked to carry out rapid Covid-19 tests at home twice a week after they have been tested three times on site over the first two weeks of term.

Speaking ahead of the announcement yesterday Huntington School head teacher, John Tomsett said: "I want all the students back in school if it is safe for them to return.

"I want the government to recognise just how logistically demanding it will be to test all 1,500 students in a school like Huntington. It will take days if not weeks to test every single student on their return. I would rather have them back with our systems of control in place and test contacts only.

"I want utter clarity on grading GCSEs and A-levels.

"I want teachers to be able to grade GCSES and A-levels without fear or favour.

"I want us to be given test papers which can be tailored to test what our students have covered from the GCSEs and A levels, so that we can undertake a formal assessment of students in school and grade them fairly."

It comes as a document from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) – a sub-group of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) – said that the opening of primary and secondary schools is “likely to increase effective R by a factor of 1.1 to 1.5 (10% to 50%)”.

Students in secondary schools and colleges will be asked to use a lateral flow device when they return in a fortnight – and if they test negative, they will be allowed to resume face-to-face classes.

Secondary school and college leaders will be given some flexibility to stagger the return of students from the week beginning March 8 to ensure pupils are tested before returning to class.

Primary school children will not need to take a rapid coronavirus test, but primary school staff will continue to take two rapid tests each week at home.

A headteachers’ union has said the return of secondary school and college pupils may need to be staggered “over a minimum of two weeks” due to the “huge logistical challenge” of mass testing.

Announcing the plans to reopen schools and colleges to all pupils from March 8, Boris Johnson told MPs: “All the evidence shows that classrooms are the best places for our young people to be and that’s why I’ve always said that schools would be the last to close and the first to reopen.

“And based on our assessment of the current data against the four tests, I can tell the House that two weeks from today, pupils and students in all schools and further education settings can safely return to face-to-face teaching, supported by twice weekly testing of secondary school and college pupils.”

He added that breakfast and after-school clubs will also be able to reopen – and other children’s activities, including sport, can restart “where necessary to help parents to work”.

The decision comes despite calls from education unions to adopt a “phased return” of students – similar to in Wales and Scotland where schools began reopening to the youngest pupils on Monday.

Mr Johnson called on Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to “persuade some of his friends in the unions” to say that “schools are safe”.

Following the announcement, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Of immediate concern is the huge logistical challenge facing secondary schools and colleges of having to manage the mass testing of pupils for coronavirus.

“This requires setting up testing stations on site and having significant numbers of staff to operate them.

“This may mean that the return of pupils has to be staggered over a minimum of two weeks, and we expect the Government to show a spirit of understanding.”

He added that he was concerned that the full return on March 8 may “lead to more disruption”.