SCHOOLS will stay open if possible despite science suggesting the new variant spreads easier between children.

On Monday, Boris Johnson said he wanted to open schools in January “if we possibly can”, and this statement has been echoed by Lancashire County Council bosses who say keeping children in education is a priority.

County chief executive Angie Ridgwell said: “It is really important that we know that for our young people, the safest place for them to be is in school.

“We also recognise the significant disadvantage that is being placed on our young people at the moment because of their inability to access education, especially for those who are more deprived.”

Secondary school pupils will be sent back in January in a staggered return, with pupils taking exams being sent back earlier than others.

The Department for Education has said secondary schools and colleges will offer remote education to all other students during the first week, with all face-to-face education resuming on January 11.

It is hoped the staggered return will allow headteachers to roll out mass testing of children and staff in the new year.

She added: “I’m not saying it's easy, I’m not saying there aren’t challenges with this there absolutely are but the education of our children is one of our main priorities and remains so.”

The leaders of the National Education Union (NEU) have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to call for all students to be kept at home – except key workers’ children and vulnerable pupils – over the first two weeks of January to get mass testing set up.