Boris Johnson is widely expected to keep schools across England shut as part of a new national coronavirus lockdown in a move which will leave parents and pupils facing weeks of uncertainty.
The Prime Minister will set out the 'next steps' in the Government's Covid-19 response with an address to the nation tonight at 8pm, with Parliament being recalled on Wednesday.
MailOnline understands England is facing blanket restrictions similar to those imposed during the first lockdown last spring, with fears they will have to last for months until the most vulnerable are vaccinated.
It is thought that schools will be told to remain shut to all but vulnerable children and the children of key workers in the coming weeks.
Such a move will plunge the school year into chaos and will raise questions over whether exams planned for 2021 will be able to go ahead.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
Boris Johnson is widely expected to announce that schools across England will remain closed in the coming weeks as part of a new national lockdown
The Government has been under growing pressure to keep a majority of pupils out of the classroom since it announced last week that primary schools in numerous hotspot areas would be told to stay closed at the start of January.
Ministers also pushed back the start of term for the bulk of secondary school pupils by a week, meaning they were set to return on January 18 rather than January 11 - when only Years 11 and 13 preparing for exams were due to go back.
Mr Johnson said this morning that the argument for keeping schools open was 'powerful'.
The Prime Minister has also insisted that schools are safe and that closing primaries would be a 'last resort'.
But education unions have warned that bringing all pupils back to school could fuel the pandemic and put teachers at 'serious risk' of falling ill.
A joint statement from unions representing school staff and head teachers blasted the Government's 'chaotic' handling of the reopening of schools and said it had caused confusion for parents and staff.
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said before the Prime Minister's address to the nation that any lockdown had to include the closure of schools.
He tweeted: 'We must introduce a national lockdown now. Tragically, that must mean school closures.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
'We need a simple contract between the British people: the country goes into lockdown, the Government delivers the vaccine. Stay at home, protect the NHS, vaccinate Britain.'
Mr Johnson's address to the nation came hours after Nicola Sturgeon announced that schools in Scotland will remain closed for all of January as part of a new lockdown north of the border.
Ms Sturgeon said she hoped schools in Scotland would be able to return on February 1.
The delayed reopening of classrooms is likely to wreak havoc with the school year and raises questions about whether exams will go ahead as currently envisaged.
The Government has previously been adamant that exams will be sat in 2021 after the closure of schools meant they had to be