Education secretary Gavin Williamson addressed the House of Commons as the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held the daily COVID-19 press conference.
Jane Imrie

COVID-19 government update Wednesday March 18: Schools in England to close

This afternoon saw the announcement of the closure of schools across the country as part of the ‘fight against coronavirus’.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson addressed the House of Commons as the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held the daily COVID-19 press conference.

Both confirmed that primary and secondary schools across the country will remain closed after the end of the school day on Friday.

The Prime Minister stated that the measure had come as “schools are finding it more difficult to continue as normal”, and that the closures would be the best way of controlling the spread of COVID-19.

Stating that the government is aiming to “do the right thing at the right time and follow the best scientific advice”, Mr Johnson reiterated advice previously given around avoiding gatherings, working from home where possible and maintaining good handwashing hygiene.

Commenting on the potential closure of schools, the Prime Minister described the situation as an “important tradeoff”.

He however confirmed that as of Friday, schools will remain closed to the “vast majority” of pupils until further notice, but would be open for the children of key workers such as NHS staff, care workers, police and delivery drivers.

In addition, schooling will be available for vulnerable children, which includes children with a social care plan or additional learning and support needs.

The Prime Minister also confirmed that: “exams will not take place as planned in May and June, though we will make sure pupils get the qualifications they need and deserve for their academic career.”

The government also intends to supply meals and vouchers for children eligible for free school meals, in order to support low-income families during the closures.

While Mr Johnson advised that children should not be left in the care of elderly relatives due to the risk of spreading the virus to a vulnerable demographic.

He stressed that the government would implement further measures if necessary: “We will not hesitate to go further and faster in the days and weeks ahead.”

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