Plans for schools to merge into "hubs" during the coronavirus outbreak must include measures to ensure social distancing guidelines are followed, the Department for Education has warned.
DfE guidance updated tonight also states that "safeguarding and consistency of provision for pupils with SEND should also be considered" in any hub plans, and acknowledges that social distancing "is a particular challenge in some settings".
The move follows concerns from headteachers that hubs may lead to children and teachers from different areas mingling and potentially spreading the virus.
The Association of School and College Leaders has also expressed fears that requiring children to move to an unfamiliar setting may "make them more anxious at a time when they are already likely to be unsettled".
But in many areas, hubs have already been created or are being planned owing to the low number of pupils in partially open schools.
Tonight's updated DfE guidance says: "With significantly reduced pupil numbers, and risks of understaffing due to illness, we understand that shared provision through multi-school or early years hubs and clusters is an option being considered in some areas. In some cases, arrangements are already in place.
"There are issues to balance when making choices about provision at this time. First and foremost is public health, which remains the priority. Any arrangements should enable staff and children to follow social distancing guidance and limit other risks relating to the spread of the virus. We recognise that this is a particular challenge in some settings."
There will be other practicalities to consider, it continues, "including how children and teachers access settings while limiting travel".
More detailed guidance will be produced "after Easter" after consultation with schools, early years settings, local authorities, trusts and others, via the DfE's central and regional teams.