The UK's biggest teachers' union is calling for all schools to switch to remote learning amid the highly contagious mutated Covid-19 strain.
The National Education Union has written an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson in a bid to move all schools online from January 4, when most are due to go back after the Christmas and winter break.
It says: "We all hope that cases amongst school children will fall across the Christmas period because schools are closed.
"But we have to be concerned about the new variant having perhaps 70% more transmissibility, and the suggestions that increased transmission amongst school age pupils might underlie the increase in cases before Christmas.
"We want to work with the Government to ensure that children who are positive do not infect other children who might then infect their families or the school staff; we do have a proper concern for school and college staff that have no PPE or effective social distancing in their classroom settings, as well as for the parents and carers of the children they teach.
"Reducing infections in school and college would also mean attendance would be higher than the low levels we were seeing last term."
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Experts believe the new variant could be up to 70% more infectious than the original strain.
It has seen London and much of the south east of England moved into a new Tier 4 lockdown, meaning households are not allowed to mix, people are not allowed to move between areas, non-essential shops have closed and people in the tier are not allowed to form Christmas bubbles.
The union wants the online learning to last for two weeks to allow local directors of public health to set up mass testing in all schools.
It also wants vaccinations accelerated for teachers.
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