Schools face shutdown until after Easter as experts warn of mutant virus threat

Schools in England could stay shut until after the Easter holidays, due to the ongoing virus threat.

With case levels still high, a government source has admitted it is becoming 'increasingly difficult' to see how schools could return to in-person teaching next month.

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has said he would "certainly hope" to re-open schools after the February half-term. He also stressed that teachers and parents will be given a two-week notice before schools go back.

But government scientists have warned that going back to school could set off another spike in cases.

Gavin Williamson told the media: "Any decision to open schools to all children is based on the best health advice and the best scientific advice.

"The reason that we were placed in the position to close schools to all but the children of critical workers and vulnerable children was down to the mounting pressure on the NHS."

He also stated: "Schools were the last to close, schools will be the first to open.

"It won’t surprise you for one moment that as education secretary I want to see them as soon as the scientific and health advice is there to open at the earliest possible stage".

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As it stands, schools across the UK are closed to most students and are offering remote learning instead. Exams have also been scrapped, including A Levels, AS Levels and GCSEs, so teachers will give estimated grades instead.

Dr Mary Bousted, of the National Education Union, has said that the government has caused "chaos and confusion" with its approach to school openings and closures, but she is pleased to finally get confirmation about a two-week notice.

She added: "The last thing that parents and children need now is a stop-start approach. We all want schools to be open, but they must be opened when it is safe to do so, and when the conditions are right to keep schools open sustainably."

Boris Johnson wants schools to get back to the classroom as quickly as possible, according to Downing Street. However, it didn't confirm when this will be.

An official spokesperson for Boris Johnson added: "If we can open them up before Easter we obviously will do but that is determined by the latest scientific evidence and data."

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