School leaders have warned key age groups may have to be prioritised for face to face teaching while other year groups will be sent home for remote learning.
Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College, told The Telegraph that headteachers were “hoping for the best but planning for the worst”.
Mr Barton said this week headteachers would face crunch “decisions about what would be the priority groups” in “scenario planning”.
He said: “If you have a fixed pool available of those who can teach young people, then the only final resort schools and colleges have is to start thinking about the certain year groups that should be prioritised in the short term.”
One approach he suggested could be to keep Year 11 and Year 13 in school for lessons while other year groups are sent home.
He added: “We feel we owe it to the young people doing GCSEs and A-levels because we already know their time is being disrupted and want to make it as normal as they can be.”
A DfE spokesman told the publication: “We know children and young people want to be in the classroom and it is the very best place for their education and wellbeing, which is why protecting face to face education continues to be an absolute priority.”
Retired teachers have been urged to return to classrooms to plug the gaps where there are Covid-related staff shortages.
The Government recently said schools could face disruptions until Easter.
Boris Johnson is thought to be fighting to avoid implementing tougher Covid measures in the New Year.
The warning comes amid reports schools will open their doors to students in January despite spiralling Covid cases.
It was reported Boris Johnson told Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi that he is “absolutely determined” to keep schools open after children have been off for the Christmas holidays.
January is a vital part of the school calendar.
Teenagers are due to take mock GCSE and A-level exams in January which will be essential for providing teachers with evidence on performance and given an indication of what grades to give students if national exams are scraped in the summer.
Mr Johnson and Mr Zahawi are believed to discuss the topic of whether schools should go back in January on a daily basis because education remains the Government’s first priority.
A source close to Mr Zahawi told The Sunday Times: “There is a shared commitment across government to make sure they stay open.”