Parents to find out if Sheffield schools will open after half term in next two weeks

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said he hopes schools in England can fully reopen to pupils before Easter.

Thursday, 21st January 2021, 12:27 pm

Mr Williamson said that he wanted to get pupils back in the classroom at the “earliest possible opportunity”.

“I would certainly hope that that would be certainly before Easter,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Primary and secondary schools were ordered to close their doors to all but vulnerable children and the children of key workers when England went into a third national lockdown at the beginning of January.

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Children walk home from school (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson warned that most pupils would have to continue with remote learning until after the mid-February half-term break.

Mr Williamson said that a key criteria in determining when schools could reopen would be whether the pressures on the NHS had eased sufficiently.

He said the Government aimed to give schools a “clear two-week notice period” so that they were able to prepare properly to welcome pupils back.

This means Sheffield schools will have to be told before February 8 if they will be back after half term, which begins on Monday, February 22.

The Education Secretary also said he hoped that a programme of daily coronavirus tests in secondary schools and colleges as an alternative to self-isolation would be able to resume.

Under the scheme, pupils and staff who were in close contact with someone who has tested positive would be tested for seven days and they would be allowed to remain in school if the test was negative.

However the scheme was suspended on Wednesday on the advice of Public Health England amid concerns about the new variant coronavirus.

“They wanted to look at more detail as to how that was working with the new variant. We very much hope that we will be able to restart that programme that worked so well,” Mr Williamson told BBC Breakfast.

During a round of broadcast interviews, he brushed off calls by Labour to resign following a series of U-turns during the pandemic.

“My real focus is making sure that children get back into school at the earliest possible opportunity,” he told Sky News.