All Schools In England Will Reopen On 8 March As Boris Johnson Unveils "Roadmap" Out Of Lockdown
Schools will be the first to reopen as England exits lockdown [PA Images]
Schools in England are set to return on 8 March as one of the first steps in Boris Johnson's "cautious" exit from lockdown.
The Prime Minister is set to announce later today that outdoor school sports and activities will also be allowed to restart from the next month.
On the same date, the rules around social contact are also expected to be eased slightly, allowing outdoor recreation with one other person, meaning people can meet together in a park to have a coffee or a picnic.
Johnson is set to announce his four-part roadmap to MPs this afternoon, including the plans for when non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants will be allowed to reopen their doors.
It is understood the first stage of the plan will be introduced in two parts, with the second beginning on 29 March, with outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households allowed, including in private gardens.
Some outdoor sporting facilities, including tennis courts and golf courses, could also reopen from that date, while organised adult and children's sports could also be allowed to restart.
The second step of the roadmap is not likely to come until April, when non-essential retail and some outdoor hospitality could be allowed to reopen.
Unlike previous lockdowns, the government could push back some of the stages by several days in response to infection rates, with Johnson previously pledging he would take a "data not dates" approach to easing restrictions.
Speaking ahead of the roadmap announcement, the PM said: "Our priority has always been getting children back into school, which we know is crucial for their education as well as their mental and physical wellbeing, and we will also be prioritising ways for people to reunite with loved ones safely.
"Our decisions will be made on the latest data at every step, and we will be cautious about this approach so that we do not undo the progress we have achieved so far and the sacrifices each and every one of you has made to keep yourself and others safe."
But Mr Johnson has already faced calls to take a careful approach to lifting the lockdown, with Sage adviser Professor John Edmunds saying on Sunday that while ministers could be "confident" in beginning to ease restrictions, that there was a "significant risk" of new infections if they moved too quickly.
Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) warned pressure in hospitals was still "as bad as at any point last yeear" as they urged the government not to "relax public messaging or implement incentives for people to mix in groups".
Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive of the RCN, added: "We have seen how mixed messages can directly result in increased pressure on the health and care system."
Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said his party supported the return of schools but called for an increase in testing of pupils and for teachers to be prioritised for vaccines.
"We need to be looking at all these measures to keep schools for all pupils open when they do reopen," he told BBC Breakfast. "The last thing we want is schools hokey-cokeying, sort of closing again because they've had big outbreaks of the virus."
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe