All school pupils in England will return to class from March 8, the Prime Minister has confirmed.
But the return of students in secondary schools and colleges could be staggered due to the logistics of mass testing.
Secondary school and college students will be tested for Covid-19 four times over the first two weeks of term and they will then be asked to carry out the rapid coronavirus tests at home twice a week.
Pupils in secondary schools and colleges will be asked to use a lateral flow device when they return in a fortnight – and if they test negative, they will be allowed to resume face-to-face classes.
It is understood that secondary school and college leaders will be given some flexibility to stagger the return of students from March 8 to ensure pupils are tested before returning to class.
The decision comes despite calls from education unions to adopt a “phased return” of students – similar to in Wales and Scotland where schools began reopening to the youngest pupils on Monday.
Primary school children will not need to take a rapid coronavirus test.
Ahead of Boris Johnson’s announcement, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he was concerned about the idea of a “big bang” approach to reopening schools.
Mr Barton said it was “difficult to understand” why the approach in England went further than in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland where a phased return is planned.
In Scotland, children between the ages of four and eight in primaries one to three began returning to school from Monday, along with some senior secondary pupils who need to do practical work.
Children aged between three and seven also started a phased return to school in Wales on Monday, and some vocational learners were back at college for their practical qualifications.
All primary school pupils, as well as older age groups in Years 11 and 13 who have exams, could return from March 15 if Wales’s public health situation continues to improve.
Some primary school pupils in Northern Ireland will return to class on March 8, while secondary pupils in key exam years will return to school on March 22.