All UK schools are set to close as of Friday afternoon in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19), it has been announced today (18 March).
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also added that May and June exams will be scrapped but he promised that pupils would get 'the qualifications they need and deserve for their academic career'.
Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson CBE, was the first to announce the decision to close the schools.
Speaking at the House of Commons, he said: "After schools shut their gates on Friday afternoon, they will remain closed until further notice."
He added that children of 'key workers' - including NHS staff, police and supermarket delivery drivers - will still be able to stay in school after Friday, as well as children who are particularly vulnerable. The latter category includes children who have a social worker and those with Education, Health and Care Plans.
Speaking in his latest press conference, Boris Johnson added that all exams in May and June will be scrapped.
He said: "The objective is to slow the spread of the virus and we judge that this is the right moment to do that."
He went on to add: "We're simultaneously asking nurseries and private schools to do the same and we're providing financial support where it's needed.
"We're making provisions to supply meals and vouchers for children eligible for free school meals. Where some schools are already doing this, I want to make it clear that we will reimburse the cost.
"Of course this does mean that exams will not take as planned in May and June. We will make sure pupils get the qualifications they need and deserve for their academic career."
According to the MailOnline, Geoff Barton - general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders - said that roughly 10 to 20 percent of teaching staff were self-isolating but added that the number has been 'rapidly rising'.
This is a huge change from last week, when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that schools would not yet close.
Following a COBRA meeting, he said: "We have a clear plan that we are now working through and we are now getting onto the next phase in that plan. This is now not just an attempt to contain the disease as far as possible, but to delay its spread and thereby minimise suffering.
"We are not, and I repeat not, closing schools at this time."
If the recent changes impact children you have or know, it's definitely worth checking out this teacher's story which has been publicised in a bid to help scared pupils during this unprecedented pandemic.
Small Paul, which you can read for yourself here (it's free), teaches children that if they are resilient, brave and positive in this scary and complicated world of 'tall people', things will eventually return to normal.
Author, Joshua Massey - who teaches Year 2 at Langley First School, Whitley Bay, UK - was inspired to put pen to paper after he felt tensions mounting rapidly in his classroom.
Speaking to LADbible, Mr Massey said: "My children have now started asking difficult questions, and some have heard different things from their parents to others. One boy had tears in his eyes this morning when he told me that his birthday party was cancelled. It's heartbreaking.
"In general, no one likes change. For children, this is doubled. I can imagine this is all very confusing for them, and even the adults don't know what is happening tomorrow."
Indeed, it only dawned on Mr Massey as he wrote the story that in alien times like these, the vast majority of us are 'Small Pauls', rather than 'tall people'.
He said: "As I wrote the story, I realised that I definitely relate more to Small Paul than I do to the tall people. I doubt I'm the only adult to feel this way too. The people making the decisions are the only real tall people - the rest of us just need to follow Small Paul's three point plan to stay calm and positive."
Featured Image Credit: PA