All schools in England to close from Friday afternoon

PUBLISHED: 17:28 18 March 2020 | UPDATED: 17:57 18 March 2020

Schools across England will be shut due to the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: David Jones/PA

Schools across England will be shut due to the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: David Jones/PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Downing Street has announced the closure of all schools in England from Friday afternoon, March 20.

This will include all pupils except children of key workers and the most vulnerable, education secretary, Gavin Williamson has said.

He explained: “I know the situation has become increasingly challenging.

“I’ve said before that if the science and the advice changed, such that keeping schools open would no longer be in the best interest of children and teachers, that we would act - we are now at that stage.

“The spike of the virus is increasing at a faster pace than anticipated and it is crucial that we continue to consider the right measures to arrest this increase and to relieve the pressure on the health system.

“The public health benefits of schools remaining open as normal are shifting.

“It is also clear that schools are increasingly finding it more difficult to continue as normal as illness and self-isolation impacts on staffing levels and pupil attendance.”

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Exams due to take place this summer will not be able to go ahead as scheduled.

Mr Williamson said: “I can confirm that we will not go ahead with assessments or exams and that we will not be publishing performance tables for this academic year.

“We will work with the sector and Ofqual to ensure that children get the qualifications that they need.

“My department is working closely with local authorities, representatives of early years schools and headteachers, regional schools, commissioners and bodies such as Ofsted and Ofqual about how to deliver this change as effectively as possible.

“And we will do whatever is necessary to support local authorities, schools and teachers through the weeks and months ahead.”

Conservative former education secretary, Damian Hinds said schools should be given “flexibility where necessary” to add to those of parents considered key workers or vulnerable children.

Mr Williamson said flexibility is “absolutely at the core of this”, noting: “Where we’re looking at what we’re having to deal with today, we have to equally recognise some of the challenges and some of the demands on the system are going to be substantially greater in the weeks ahead than they are currently today, and we will need to constantly change how we do that response.

“We’ll certainly work with headteachers and all other organisations to make sure we get this right.”

Mr Williamson said the Cabinet Office would provide further details about what constitutes “key workers”.

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