Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has revealed a new plan for the return of primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities in January.

Announcing a U-turn on the planned staggered reopening, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said students in exam years will return to secondary schools a week later than planned, from January 11.

Primary school pupils will return on Monday (January 4), while the reopening for the remainder of secondary school pupils will be delayed until Monday, January 18.

Primary schools in a “small number of areas” of England where Covid-19 infection rates are the highest - all in the south of England - will not reopen for face-to-face teaching to all pupils as planned next week, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said.

College students will go back full-time on January 18, he told Parliament.

Across Bradford District:

  • Primary schools will reopen to all children from January 4.
  • Secondary schools will reopen to pupils in Years 11 and 13 on January 11.
  • Secondary school pupils in Years 7, 8, 9 ,10 and 12 will return to school on January 18.

Gavin Williamson said that only vulnerable children and children of key workers will receive face-to-face teaching in the first week of term.

He said: “To allow this focus on establishing testing throughout the first week of term, exam year groups will continue to have lessons remotely in line with what they would receive in class.

“And only vulnerable children and children of critical workers will have face-to-face teaching.”

Gavin Williamson told MPs: “We’re also asking universities to reduce the number of students who return to campus at the start of January, prioritising students who require practical learning to gain their professional qualifications.

“All university students should be offered two rapid tests on return in order to reduce the chance of spread of Covid.”

There has been growing concern from teaching unions and scientists about the spread of the virus following the discovery of its much more transmissible variant, with rising case rates and hospital admissions in many parts of the country.

Mr Williamson told MPs in the Commons that the Government had to make an “immediate adjustment” to its plans for the reopening of schools in early January.

He said: “We must always act swiftly when circumstances change. The evidence about the new Covid variant and rising infection rates have required some immediate adjustment to our plans for the new term.”

He added: “The latest study we have from Public Health England is that Covid infections among children are triggered by changes in the community rate. The study also says that the wider impact of school closures on children’s development would be significant.

“I’m quite clear that we must continue to do all we can to keep children in school.”

The staggered approach was due to see primary school pupils and Year 11 and Year 13 pupils returning in the first week of January, and other students going back later in the month to allow headteachers to roll out mass testing of children and staff.

Today’s change of plan comes after warnings from experts suggesting a delayed return might be necessary as hospitals struggle with more Covid-19 patients than in the peak of the first wave.

A YouGov poll conducted overnight suggested that 43% of 7,999 British adults surveyed would “strongly support” keeping schools in England closed for two further weeks after the Christmas break.

Just 9% “strongly oppose” and 10% “somewhat oppose” keeping school gates shut, YouGov said.