All schools and colleges across England are being asked to close tomorrow through mid-February as part of Boris Johnson's new national coronavirus lockdown.
Primary and secondary schools have to switch to distance learning for the vast majority of students, with only vulnerable children and children of key workers being allowed to attend classes in person.
Meanwhile, university students will be banned from returning to campus and urged to study from home as the prime minister is desperate to slow the spread of Covid-19.
The restrictions and school closings are expected to continue through the February semester, which is slated to begin on February 15.
The massive disruption to learning means the government will rethink its current plan for students to complete GCSEs and high school diplomas as usual in May and June.
However, students and parents face an uncertain situation in the coming weeks as the Ministry of Education and Examination Inspectorate Ofqual have not yet worked out the details of the updated examination schedule.
Despite the school closings, facilities for early years such as kindergartens and special schools can remain open during the closure.
Boris Johnson announced tonight that all schools and colleges in England will be closed from tomorrow as part of his new lockdown plans
The government has been under increasing pressure to keep the majority of students out of the classroom since it announced last week that elementary schools in numerous hotspot areas would be closed in early January.
Ministers have also postponed the start of the semester for the majority of secondary school students by a week, meaning they should return on January 18, rather than January 11 – as only the 11th and 13th grades that are prepared for exams should return.
Mr Johnson said this morning that the argument about keeping schools open was "powerful".
The Prime Minister has also insisted that schools are safe and that closing the primaries would be a "last resort".
However, education unions had warned that returning all students to school could fuel the pandemic and put teachers at "serious risk" of disease.
A joint statement by unions representing school staff and principals has blown up the government's “chaotic” approach to reopening schools, saying it has caused confusion among parents and staff.
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labor leader, said before the prime minister's address to the nation that any lockdown must include schools.
He tweeted: “We need to introduce a national lockdown now. Tragically, that must mean school closings.
& # 39; We need a simple contract between the British people: the country will be locked down, the government will deliver the vaccine. Stay home, protect the NHS, vaccinate the UK. & # 39;
Mr Johnson's address to the nation came hours after Nicola Sturgeon announced that schools in Scotland would be closed for the whole of January under a new lockdown north of the border.
Ms. Sturgeon said she hoped schools in Scotland could return on February 1st.
The tedious closings of classrooms will wreak havoc with the school year and raise questions about how exactly students will be assessed.
The government was previously firmly convinced that the exams should be taken in 2021 after the schools shutdown meant they had to be scrapped last year.
Ministers said in October that they are working with Examination Inspectorate Ofqual to come up with plans for testing to be conducted.
They said the exams would be postponed for three weeks, beginning after mid-May on Bank Holiday and ending on July 2.
The closure of schools until mid-February will inevitably result in exams being completely canceled.
Mr Johnson said this morning that the risk coronavirus poses to teachers is no greater than it does to others.
He said, “The risk for teachers, and of course we will do everything we can to protect teachers, but the risk for teachers is no greater than for others.
"The reasons for wanting to keep schools open are very, very powerful in my opinion."
Conservative former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had called for schools to close immediately when he warned that the pressures hospitals face were "worse off-scale" than in previous winter crises.
Initial results from a small study conducted in November indicated that the proportion of school children and teachers with coronavirus matches the proportion in the local community.
The study of 105 schools published last month by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that 1.24 percent of students and 1.29 percent of staff tested positive for current infections overall – similar to the 1.2 percent who did in have been reported to the community.
However, no data or major studies have been published since the emergence of a new, more infectious strain of coronavirus.
The NAHT school principals union has called on the government to disclose scientific evidence of the effects of the new Covid-19 variant on schools.
NAHT Secretary General Paul Whiteman said: “NAHT opened a lawsuit last Friday to compel the government to release the withheld scientific data supporting its claims that schools are safe.
"We're not convinced and we're waiting for the government's response, due today at 4 p.m."
In addition to the National Education Union (NEW), the NASUWT teachers' union, GMB, Unison and Unite, the NAHT had previously called for a transition to distance learning for most students for safety reasons.
Ministers were met with anger from unions over the government's chaotic plans to reopen schools in January
Students across England now face the prospect of many weeks of distance learning as schools are instructed to remain closed
All employees who continue to work in schools with vulnerable students and children of key workers should have access to Covid-19 vaccinations as a matter of priority, according to the coalition of unions.
In a joint statement, they said, "If all students return to classrooms with infection rates this high, those in the education sector are at serious health risk and could fuel the pandemic."
The NEU had already told its members that it was not safe to return to classrooms on Monday, as schools in a number of non-hotspot areas said they wanted to remain closed, contrary to the government's original instructions.
Leeds' Gildersome Primary School, located in Tier 3, was forced to close indefinitely for most children after 16 staff signed a letter saying they were "exercising their right to not full classes to teach".
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News it was "clear that the percentage of teachers who contract coronavirus is no higher than the rest of the population".
He added, "So there is clear public health advice behind the position we have taken and it is precisely this that people should follow, since of course education is also very important, especially for people's long-term health."
(tagsToTranslate) Dailymail (t) Nachrichten (t) Boris Johnson (t) Coronavirus (t) Coronavirus Lockdowns