Schools could be shut until EASTER with pupils kept away from class in Covid hotspots as PM faces pressure to re-open

FEARS are growing that schools will be kept shut until Easter – piling massive pressure on Boris Johnson to open them sooner.

Schools in Covid hotspots could also stay closed for longer than those in less afflicted parts of the country, The Sun understands.

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The PM dramatically ordered all schools to shut until the February half term in a bid to get rocketing infection rates under control.

But he has refused to rule out extending the shutdown, and ministers yesterday indicated restrictions will only be gradually eased from around March.

School bosses said they reckon classes will stay shut to most kids until after the Easter holidays, which are at the beginning of April.

But Tory MP Robert Halfon urged the PM to put kids first and get them all back to class in February.

The chairman of the education select committee, said: “The government said that schools would reopen after the February half term.

“Everything possible should be done to keep to that date – for the sake of the children’s education, mental health and safety.

“That is why ministers should prioritise school staff for the vaccine, and send in mobile units to jab them across the country.”

The PM has pledged to vaccinate all 13.5m over 70s by mid February – meaning 88 per cent of those at most risk of dying will be immunised.

And he has said reopening schools will be his number one priority when lockdown is eased.

But Whitehall has not pegged the return of schools to hitting a certain vaccination target.

One senior MP said they think there is just a “million to one” that schools would reopen after the February half term.

Steve Chalke, head of the Oasis Academy Trust chain, said the “mood music” is that schools will stay shut to most kids until Easter.

Mr Chalke, whose chain runs 48 schools across the country, said: “I don’t think schools will reopen until post Easter. I think they will miss the second half of term as well.

“That is the mood music internally.”

He said many teachers are very worried about catching Covid in school and that they will feel “safer” and “more confident” when the weather warms up and they can take kids out of the classroom more.

One education sector insider said: “It is not even close to February – it was never going to be.

“I don’t know anyone who isn’t working on the assumption it will be Easter at the earliest.

“It only takes 48 hours to shut down a school, but takes ages to get them up and running again.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is keen to get school back fully up and running as soon as possible.

But Whitehall sources say it all depends on government scientists saying infection rates have fallen low enough for schools to be safely reopened.

And schools in Covid hotspots could be told to stay closed under the strict Tiers regime England is expected to head into after lockdown.

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