Boris Johnson has stopped short of announcing school closures under the government’s dramatic escalation of its coronavirus response plan.
Downing Street has told people to cease all non-essential contact with others, regardless of whether they have coronavirus symptoms.
As part of this, Johnson asked people to work from home if they can, while discouraging all social visits to buildings such as pubs and theatres.
However, on schools, Johnson only said closures will be kept “under review”.
He said during Monday’s coronavirus press briefing: “We’re keeping all measures under review and obviously people will be thinking about school closures – there is an argument about school closures.
“We think at the moment, on balance, it’s much better if we can keep schools open for all sorts of reasons.
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“But I appreciate that this is again something that we need to keep under review.”
However, teaching unions later said it is “likely” a number of schools will be forced to close due to a lack of staff.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) general secretary Geoff Barton and NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said they had a “productive meeting” with education secretary Gavin Williamson on Monday afternoon.
A joint statement from Barton and Whiteman said: “The most immediately pressing challenge is the difficulty in keeping schools open with growing numbers of staff having to self-isolate.
“It is likely that a number of schools will have to close because there are too few staff available to teach, support and supervise children.
“We are concerned about the implications for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities as well as children who receive free school meals if a school is closed or they have to self-isolate, and similarly, the wellbeing of vulnerable young people where there are identified safeguarding risks.”