It comes as a new “catch-up” tsar who will run a task force to oversee plans for children to have one-to-one tuition and summer school was appointed by Mr Johnson on Feb 3.
The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has confirmed that schools will receive a two-week notice period before they reopen in order to allow staff to prepare for the return of pupils.
Mr Johnson’s optimism on school reopening is built on the success of the vaccination programme, as over 15 million people have received the first dose of the vaccine in the UK as of Feb 16. The daily case rate continues to stay at levels not seen since before the second wave, as 10,625 positive cases were also recorded on Feb 16.
All primary and secondary schools have been closed since Jan 5 following the introduction of a third national lockdown in England, and have since offered remote learning for students. Only vulnerable children and children of key workers are currently allowed to attend schools for face-to-face learning.
Read more: What could Boris Johnson’s roadmap to end lockdown look like?
Read more: Tracking UK Covid vaccinations: Are we on target to end lockdown?
What are the rules for children of key workers and vulnerable children?
The Department for Education said children with at least one parent or carer who was a critical worker could attend class – even if parents were working from home.
Those entitled to free school meals will continue to receive them during closures, according to Mr Johnson.
A DfE spokesman said: “Schools are open for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. We expect schools to work with families to ensure all critical worker children are given access to a place if this is required.
“If critical workers can work from home and look after their children at the same time then they should do so, but otherwise this provision is in place to enable them to provide vital services.”
Vulnerable children could include “pupils who may have difficulty engaging with remote education at home” due to a lack of devices or a quiet space to study, according to the advice.
But government guidance says parents who choose to keep children out of class will not be penalised.
What is the Government planning to help children catch up?
The Government has appointed an education recovery tsar, Sir Kevan Collins, to address the amount of learning children have missed out on during the pandemic.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that the Government’s immediate focus must be on education, and Sir Collins will head up a team of experts who will draw up proposals on how to help children catch up.
One-to-one tuition for pupils and summer schools are reportedly being discussed, and Department for Education (DfE) officials are said to be studying the evidence and cost-effectiveness of adding on extra classes at the beginning and end of the day.
In an interview with the BBC, Sir Kevan said: “I think we need to think about the extra hours not only for learning, but for children to be together, to play, to engage in competitive sport, for music, for drama because these are critical areas which have been missed in their development.”
He said teachers will need to be asked “to increase learning time for children”.
What do tiers mean for schools?
The new lockdown measures mean the entire country will be subject to the same tougher measures, including the closure of all schools. This means the tier system is not currently in place.
Mr Johnson said on the announcement of closing schools: “I want to stress that the problem is not that schools are unsafe to children.
“The problem is that schools may nonetheless act as vectors for transmission, causing the virus to spread between households.”
However, the Prime Minister has suggested that England will return to the regional tier system at the end of lockdown, meaning that schools can reopen if tier rules remain the same. However, sources have suggested that tiers could apply to the whole country, rather than geographical area.
Officials are believed to be prioritising the reopening of schools before any other relaxation of restrictions, such as the reopening of hospitality and allowing family and friends to meet in outdoor settings.
Read more on the previous tier system:
Are there any changes to exams?
Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, has indicated that GCSE, A-Level and AS exams may take place after all.
Mr Williamson addressed this possibility in a letter to the chief exam regulator on Jan 13 despite announcing on Jan 6 that exams would not take place this summer.
He explained that the replacement would be a “form of teacher-assessed grades, with training and support provided to ensure these are awarded fairly and consistently across the country”.
However, the Education Secretary stated on Jan 13 that he would “like to explore the possibility of providing externally set tasks or papers”.
While teachers’ predicted grades will still be used, the exams may be necessary so that teachers can “draw on this resource to support their assessments of students”, he said.
So far, there has been no official announcement from the Education Secretary on reinstating exams.
It comes as a major exam board backed calls for A-level and GCSE reform in the wake of Covid-19, as it says qualifications must be “fit for the 21st century”.
Edexcel’s parent company Pearson has launched a review into British qualifications for 14 to 19-year-olds, saying the pandemic has forced everyone to “adapt and rethink” how to assess young people.
How will testing in schools work?
In December, ministers said secondary school pupils and teachers would be able to have daily lateral flow tests for a week if they have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.
That would mean children could continue their education at school rather than entire classes or year groups being sent home to self-isolate for 10 days .