All schools in England are to be closed to most students from Friday in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
They will stay open for “key workers” and vulnerable children only.
This year’s summer exam series and SATs tests will also not go ahead, with ministers pledging to work with the exams regulator “to ensure children get the qualifications that they need”.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson made the announcement in the House of Commons this afternoon.
“The spike of the virus is progressing at a faster pace than anticipated,” he said.
“After schools shut their gates on Friday afternoon they will remain closed until further notice.
“This will be for all children except to those of key workers and children who are most vulnerable. The scientific advice shows that these settings are safe for this small number of children to continue attending, but asking others to stay away will go towards helping us the slow the spread of this virus.
“Examples of key workers include NHS staff, police and delivery drivers who need to be able to go to work.
“Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with an educational health and care plan.
“We are expecting early years providers, sixth forms and further education colleges to do the same.”
On free school and colleges meals, Williamson said his department will give providers the “flexibility” to continue this offer by allowing them to purchase meals or vouchers for supermarkets or local shops.
He noted that some schools are already doing this and committed to reimbursing those costs.