Primary school kids and Years 11 and 13 will return to class on January 4 – but some pupils could be stuck at home until February under Covid plans.
Today Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said the Government is still set on staggering the reopening of schools as planned.
But he told Times Radio: “We do keep things under review, and we’ll be talking to head teachers and teachers in the next 24, 48 hours just to make sure that our plans… are really robust.”
“We always keep things under review but teachers and head teachers have been working incredibly hard over the Christmas period since schools broke up in order to prepare for a new testing regime – community testing – in order to make sure that children and all of us are safer.
“We do keep things under review but that is the plan.”
Mr Gove said the current plan was for primary school pupils, GCSE and A-level students and the children of key workers to return to school next week.
In this plan, other secondary school students would return the following week. But he said that this could be changed.
It comes as education minister Gavin Williamson is set for a crunch meeting today, where he faces a battle to keep classrooms open in Tier 4 areas when the new term starts next week.
Scientists have warned Boris Johnson he should keep secondary schools closed in January, with the possibility of a national lockdown, Politico reports.
SAGE, which advises on the pandemic, told the PM last week the R rate could be kept down below 1 if schools remained shut – with secondary schools the key to achieving this.
SCHOOLS IN OR OUT?
Last week Professor Neil Ferguson told the Commons Science and Technology Committee the new strain of coronavirus is “everywhere now”.
He said: “Schools are now shut, we are in a near-lockdown situation across the country. Contact rates are lower over Christmas.”
Experts have suggested kids could spread the disease faster, with several Government figures earlier indicating schools could remain closed throughout January.
Teachers are expected to be bumped up the vacation list when the Oxford jab is approved this week.
A Whitehall source said full closure for schools in the “stay at home” areas was “on the table – but a long was from being implemented.”
London Tory Mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey has reiterated his call to keep classrooms shut for two weeks to act as a circuit breaker – and get all teachers tested for the virus.
He said: “We need to defeat the virus – but any approach must be targeted.
“We know that schools are one of the main points of transmission for the virus – and we must make the most of the Christmas break to defeat Covid-19 where we can.
“I am proposing a two week circuit breaker for schools.
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During this time we can stop our children mixing, and get our teachers tested.
“This gives us a fighting chance against the virus, without causing maximum disruption. A targeted approach is the only way forward – this way we can protect both lives and livelihoods.”
Mr Williamson is said to have privately expressed concern that so-called Covid “doves” in Government, who are more in favour of restrictions, could cave to mounting pressure to shutter schools
A source told the Sunday Telegraph: ”Gavin is trying to keep them open, which is why he rolled out the testing stuff early.
“He’s facing an enormous battle. It’s the lockdowners he’s fighting.”
At a press conference in Downing Street last week Boris Johnson said he wanted to stick to the current plan of a staggered start for schools in January “if we possibly can.”