Government to decide if children will return to school after holidays later today

Parents in South Yorkshire will find out later today if their children will be able to return to schools after the holidays in January.

The Department of Education said Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is scheduled to make a statement after 3.30pm in the Commons.

However, the exact timing will depend on earlier business including the Brexit debate.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will make a statement in the Commons on schools returning in January

There have been recent calls from several quarters calling for all schools to remain shut over the fears of the new mutated Covid-19 strain, which is more infectious and aggressive than the original.

There are reports suggesting that primary schools are unlikely to be affected by a longer closure and will return according to their normal timetable.

But it is possible that secondary schools could only reopen after mid-January at the earliest, following proposals that could see school staff given high priority for Covid vaccinations.

The revised timetable would also see only older students who are taking exams such as A-levels and GCSE's remote learning for the week from January 4.

This would allow most secondary pupils an extra week's holiday while schools and colleges prepare to carry out mass testing.

South Yorkshire is currently subjected to Tier 3 restrictions.

But with the number of Covid-19 cases rising by almost a third in a week across Sheffield alone, the city risks being plunged into Tier 4.

An announcement is expected today following a tier review.

The Government has previously confirmed that all secondary schools and colleges in England will be offered help, support and facilities to implement an additional round of free coronavirus testing from the first week of January.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.