Secondary schools in England will stage a staggered return to face-to-face teaching at the start of next term, the BBC reports.

Exam year pupils will return as planned but other years will be learning online during the first week back in January, to allow for a mass Covid testing scheme for staff and students to be set up.

The Department for Education said armed forces personnel will support the testing in schools.

Face-to-face learning is expected to re-start for all by 11 January.

But school leaders have called the plans a “shambles” and fear already overloaded school staff will be called upon to manage the project.

Paul Whiteman, leader of the NAHT, said: "They have handed schools a confused and chaotic mess at the eleventh hour".

The decision to effectively delay the start of term for many secondary pupils comes after the DFE fought a bitter row with a number of schools and local authorities over their decision to switch to online learning for the final week of term, in the face of soaring Covid cases.