School isolation rules in England could be brought to an end this autumn, the Department for Education has confirmed.
There are growing concerns about the rising number of children who have to quarantine because they are the contacts of confirmed cases.
The department said ministers have written to secondary schools asking them to prepare to potentially replace isolation rules with testing.
A spokesman said: “We are provisionally asking secondary schools and colleges to prepare to offer on-site testing when students return for the new academic year, so that schools are ready in case it is needed to keep as many children as possible in face-to-face education.
“We will provide further details about the approach to protective measures and test and trace in education from September in due course.”
On Monday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he has asked for “fresh advice” on the issue, adding that the policy is “having a huge knock-on impact” on children’s education.
“I will hopefully be able to say more on this as soon as possible,” he said.
Schools minister Nick Gibb said the Government is carrying out a review into using testing to end self-isolation for school pupils in bubbles.
“We are conducting trials of daily contact testing as a possible alternative to self-isolation,” he told Sky News on Tuesday, adding that a decision will be taken before July 19.
“What matters also is that we keep the school safe and, if you go around our schools, you will see a raft of measures to reduce the infection rates within schools.
“There’s extra hygiene, there’s staggered breaks, we keep children in bubbles, and there’s extra ventilation in classrooms to minimise the risk of transmission.”
He said that about 3% of students are currently self-isolating, but added that this figure is lower than it was in the autumn.
There are similar moves to address the issue in Wales, where education minister Jeremy Miles suggested on Monday classroom bubbles would be scrapped after the summer after he told a press conference a new national framework for schools would look at removing the staggering of the school day for learners.