Schools will not reopen before March 8, Boris Johnson has confirmed, as calls intensify for children to start learning again.
The coronavirus lockdown is set to be reviewed on February 22 and the prime minister is under pressure from MPs to allow face-to-face education to resume as soon as possible.
Updating MPs on Wednesday, Johnson said he hoped the government could allow schools to return on March 8, but it was not yet clear whether vaccinations would slow transmission of coronavirus.
The PM said schools will not reopen after February half term, as the government originally hoped, and March 8 would be the earliest date they could.
“If we achieve our target of vaccinating everyone in the four most vulnerable groups with their first dose by February 15, and every passing day sees more progress towards that goal, then those groups [will] have developed immunity from the virus about three-weeks later, that is by March 8,” he said.
“We hope it will therefore be safe to begin the reopening of schools from Monday, March 8, with other economic and social restrictions being removed thereafter as and when the data permits [...] then or thereafter, I should say.”
Parents and Tory backbenchers are increasingly angry over the amount of teaching time youngsters are missing.
A survey by the Sutton Trust this week found more than a third of low income families still do not have a laptop or tablet needed for home schooling.
Labour leader Keir Starmer, meanwhile, has called for the government to prioritise teachers and other key workers for the jab, once phase one of the programme to inoculate the most vulnerable is complete.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.