Everything you need to know about schools reopening in January 2021
This new year is already full of uncertainty, due to the increased spread of coronavirus, with hospitals starting to fill up.
The new variant of coronavirus, which has spread rapidly in the south and southeast of England, has led to growing concerns.
There are fears the new strain could be more easily spread among children.
Now the government faces questions over its plan to allow children back to classes from Monday, January 4, 2021.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies has said that the R number could be kept below the crucial 1 figure if schools remained shut.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has said he is "confident" the staggered return to secondary schools in England will go ahead as planned.
However, the issue is still under review to do the concern over the spread of the new coronavirus variant.
Will schools open in January?
At the moment, the plan is to reopen schools in a staggered approach from January 4, but the government has not ruled out a delay.
Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The Education Secretary will be setting out his proposals later today. Clearly, we want to protect education as much as possible.
"But the new variant does make it much easier for this disease to transmit. So we are going to protect education as much as we can."
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to chair a meeting today, December 30, to decide whether delaying opening secondary schools to all pupils for a week will be sufficient to stem the virus.
This would mean all pupils would return to school on January 18.
Mr Hancock is expected to reveal the decisions of the Covid-O committee this afternoon.
Under the current plan, primary school children will return as normal on January 4.
Meanwhile, those taking in exams in 2021 (GCSEs and A-Levels) will start back in the first week of January.
Other secondary school pupils will return the following week, starting January 11.
But Mr Gove has said that ministers would be speaking to headteachers to ensure plans were "tight and robust".
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He added to Times Radio on Monday: "We do keep things under review."
The staggered return to schools was in order to allow for a rollout of mass Covid testing.
Gavin Williamson, education secretary, has met Downing Street officials to consider whether schools tier 4 areas should remain closed until February.
He will make a statement at around 4pm to give his update on the school situation.
Meanwhile, it emerged on Monday that scientists have urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to keep secondary schools closed in January.
According to the government website, parents and carers can continue to access early years settings as normal from January 2021.
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