Eddie Mair 4pm - 7pm
Coronavirus: Schools in Scotland,Wales and Northern Ireland to close by Friday
18 March 2020, 13:28
All schools in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will close by Friday at the latest, their governments have announced.
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.
Stormont sources said Northern Ireland schools will close immediately to pupils, and to staff by Friday.
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 schools have now lost too many staff to continue as normal.
She said she wanted to reassure teachers and school staff that the government would work with them as they know what is best for children.
The SNP leader added the Scottish Government is still working out the finer detail of what this will all mean.
Welsh education minister Kirsty Williams said the Welsh Government was looking into how children on free school meals and with additional learning needs can be supported, and said parents should speak with their childcare providers for care over the extended break.
She said: "The key areas we are looking at are supporting and safeguarding the vulnerable and ensuring continuity of learning.
"We are looking in detail at how we can support and safeguard all those who benefit from free school meals and children with additional learning needs. I will make sure you are kept up-to-date.
"While this will apply to schools, childcare settings are expected to remain open until we have definitive advice from the chief medical officer and from Public Health Wales that any closures are required.
"Parents can, and should, speak with their usual childcare providers if they need care over the Easter holidays."
Ms Williams also said the Welsh Government was still working to clarify what the school closures would mean for pupils with forthcoming examinations.
She said: "One of the critical decisions that we will seek to clarify with urgency is that of the forthcoming examinations. I am also working with Qualifications Wales and the WJEC about this year's exam series. In line with all education ministers across the UK, I will be making a further announcement shortly.
"From the outset, the decisions being taken have been focused on public health advice, and it is right that these science-based recommendations are front and centre of the decisions being made."
Ms Williams added: "The announcement I am making today will help ensure an orderly closure for schools so that they have the time to prepare.
"However, I am conscious that the SAGE Committee and Cobra meet this afternoon, and I will of course be listening closely to see if advice changes and any further urgent decisions about school closures are needed.
"Today's decision will help ensure an orderly closure, so schools have time to prepare ahead of the early break.
"My main message for everyone is to stay safe and stay well. We will work together and we will face this outbreak together."