Schools in England will close from Friday until further notice for all pupils except children of key workers and the most vulnerable, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said.

Mr Williamson told MPs: “I want to provide parents, students and staff with the certainty they need.

“After schools shut their gates on Friday afternoon they will remain closed until further notice.

“This will be for all children except to those of key workers and where children who are most vulnerable.”

The Prime Minister also said “exams will not take place as planned in May and June” after the announcement that schools in England will close for most pupils. 

Councillor Terry Douris, Cabinet Member for Education, Libraries and Localism at Hertfordshire County Council, said: “I can confirm that following the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s statement today, all schools in Hertfordshire will be closed to children with effect from Friday 20 March, until further notice.

"We are currently working on arrangements to be made for children of key workers and others for whom the government requires provision, to continue in some form.

"We recognise the difficulties this will cause to many parents but the health and safety of our pupils, staff, parents and residents is the topmost concern both of the government and of Hertfordshire County Council.

"We want to reassure everyone that we are doing everything within our power to protect the health and safety of our residents.

“Since the start of the outbreak we have been working on plans to enable schools to continue to offer some learning opportunities to pupils in the event of closure.

"We are currently working with schools on this and hope that all pupils will have access to at least some opportunities for home learning when closures take place.

"I would like to express my particular sympathy to all those students whose preparations for examinations this summer have been disrupted.

“I can confirm the head teacher of each of our schools in Hertfordshire will be contacting the families of all their students to give information about their specific school.”

Earlier, Wales and Scotland announced schools would shut on Friday. 

Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says schools do not now have enough staff to continue as normal.

Responding to Mr Williamson's announcement in the Commons, Conservative former education secretary Damian Hinds said schools should be given “flexibility where necessary” to add to those of parents considered key workers or vulnerable children.

Mr Williamson said flexibility is “absolutely at the core of this”, noting: “Where we’re looking at what we’re having to deal with today, we have to equally recognise some of the challenges and some of the demands on the system are going to be substantially greater in the weeks ahead than they are currently today, and we will need to constantly change how we do that response.

“We’ll certainly work with headteachers and all other organisations to make sure we get this right.”

Mr Williamson said the Cabinet Office would provide further details about what constitutes “key workers”.