Schools in Scotland and Wales will close in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, amid speculation that similar measures could be announced in England.
The Welsh Government on Wednesday said all schools will close for an early Easter break by Friday at the latest, just minutes before First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced schools in Scotland will also close by the end of the week.
It came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the House of Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions that further decisions on school closures were “to be taken imminently”.
He said: “The House should expect further decisions to be taken imminently on schools and how to make sure we square the circle both of making sure we stop the spread of the disease but also making sure we relieve, as much as we can, pressure on our NHS.”
Ms Sturgeon said that schools have now lost too many staff to continue as normal, and wanted to reassure teachers and school staff that the government would work with them as they know what is best for children.
The First Minister said the Scottish Government is still working out the finer detail of what this will all mean.
Welsh minister for education Kirsty Williams said plans were being made for schools in Wales to be repurposed to help people “involved in the immediate response to the coronavirus outbreak”.
She said: “I can announce we are bringing forward the Easter break for schools in Wales. Schools across Wales will close for statutory provision of education at the latest on 20 March 2020.
“I have been clear up to now that the continuity of education and the wellbeing of our learners has been at the heart of my decision-making. This will always be the case.
“From next week, schools will have a new purpose. They will help support those most in need, including people involved in the immediate response to the coronavirus outbreak.”
On Wednesday, Northern Ireland’s education minister said he could not give a date for when schools will be closed.
Peter Weir said that when schools close over coronavirus, it will not be short term, but potentially until the end of August.
Several schools have been denied permission for exceptional closures by the Department of Education.