It is the government’s “intention” to get colleges “back in September”, the prime minister said today after announcing that schools will reopen by then with “full attendance” as social distancing rules are relaxed.

Boris Johnson told the House of Commons this afternoon that he will reduce the distance that needs to be maintained between people from two metres to one from July 4.

After announcing a raft of industries reopening from that date, such as pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, hotels and campsites, the prime minister said: “Primary and secondary education will recommence in September with full attendance and those children who can already go to school should do so because it is safe.”

He was later asked by Richard Graham MP if he would agree that the “absolutely crucial goal is for all children and students and FE colleges and universities to be able to go back to school, college and university in the autumn absolutely safely?”

Johnson replied: “It is our intention to get not just schools but FE colleges back as well in September and get our young people back where they need to be in education and preparing for their future.”

Colleges have been allowed to welcome back more students from June 15, but are only allowed up a quarter of 16 to 19 year olds in the first year of a study programme on site at any one time until the summer break.

Principals have previously warned that it would not be possible to return all students with social distancing rules in place.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said today that it was “pure fantasy” to suggest that reducing the social distancing rule to one metre would allow all children and students to return in September.

“We need a proper strategy to bring children back into schools and colleges based in reality and on public health guidance,” he said.

Johnson said that his government will soon publish Covid-secure guidelines for every sector that is reopening and “slowly but surely these measures will restore a sense of normality”.

“After the toughest restrictions in peacetime history, we are now able to make life easier for people to see more of their friends and family and get businesses back on their feet and people back into work,” he added.

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