The Secretary of Education has announced that the return of high schools will be delayed beyond the government’s earlier promise.
Exam year students will return on January 11th, and arrangements will be made for the examination of students and staff on January 18th, a week later with other high school students.
Most elementary schools will reopen as scheduled on January 4th.
Gavin Williamson said some elementary schools in areas with high rates of corona virus will not open on that date.
Speaking later, Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged that the government would have to take “next steps” in the worst-affected areas.
Mr Williamson, who drafted a new plan for the House of Commons, said the country’s upper and lower schools were facing a “rapidly changing situation”.
He told MPs: “All students in the exam years must return in the first week of January 11th, and all high school and college students are returning full time on January 18th.
“In the first week after or after January 4, high schools and colleges will be ready to test as many staff and students as possible, and will only be open to vulnerable children and children of key workers.
“The 1,500 military personnel who are committed to supporting schools and colleges will be on hand to provide virtual training and advice on establishing the testing process with teams waiting to provide direct support to schools if needed.
“The test will start next week with those in line next to the test.
“This is in most areas in preparation for the full withdrawal of all students in all year groups on January 18th.”
The news comes 24 hours after the government insisted Progress with projects Elementary and older high school children should return to classrooms next week.
There were demands for students to return after the Christmas holidays – including the teaching unions – until late January.
Scientists have advised that keeping schools and universities closed will reduce infection rates.
A recent study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s new COVID variant found that even action similar to the UK’s second national lockout – when schools remained open – made it “impossible” to reduce the rate of infection to one “unless primary schools, secondary schools and universities were closed”.
The teaching unions had previously expressed concern after Mr Williamson outlined Christmas plans that would test staff and students from the first week of January.
Not attracting any of them.
Dr. Mary Boosted, Joint Secretary-General of the National Union of Education, said he was surprised by Mr Williamson’s announcement.
He said: “With more cases in hospitals than ever before and our NHS facing the biggest crisis ever, Secretary of State is sending the majority of primary students and staff to unsafe work environments on Monday, with warnings from eminent scientists about an‘ immediate catastrophe ’if not locked across the UK.
“The government has repeatedly asked for scientific guidance on the dangers of reopening schools and colleges, but this information is much needed – especially as new types of viruses are 50% more likely to spread.
“The government in Scotland will not reopen schools until January 18. The Westminster government should at least have done that.
In the ensuing parliamentary debate, Gavin Williamson did not answer many questions about the government’s plans for schools.
He was asked how many elementary schools in the UK will be forced to switch to distance learning next week, whether exams will improve in the summer, and whether school staff will be given priority on the latest vaccination list.
He did not provide clear answers to any of these questions, stressing that the government’s plans to release the tests would help schools take students to face-to-face learning faster.
There is already confusion on social media that the government has announced next Monday that some prime ministers will be forced to close their doors, but no information has been given on where it will be.