Education minister Nick Gibb said that the reopening of schoolsin England will be prioritised at the start of the process for lifting lockdown restrictions.

He told the Commons: “It is the Government’s strong desire to reopen all schools, colleges and universities as soon as possible.

“We will prioritise the reopening of schools as we begin the process of lifting lockdown restrictions.

“We are acutely aware of the damage to children’s education and development, particularly to the most disadvantaged pupils by being away from school and of the increased burdens that are placed on parents.

“And that’s why we allowed early years providers to remain open throughout this lockdown.”

Mr Gibb said the Government wants to give parents two weeks’ notice ahead of any reopening of schools.

He told MPs: “The decision about when and how we can reopen has to be based on clear public health data and guided by scientific evidence and the advice of Sage, the Joint Biosecurity Centre, Public Health England and the chief medical officer, including issues such as hospitalisation rates and mortality, the rate of vaccination and the challenge of new variants.

“Ultimately it was the pressure on the NHS that caused us to move into a national lockdown and the Government is monitoring NHS capacity carefully as it reviews whether easing lockdown might be possible.”

Mr Gibb continued: “The Government recognises that head teachers, teachers, support staff, parents and carers need time to prepare for reopening and that’s why (Education Secretary Gavin Williamson) made it clear last week that we will give two weeks’ notice to schools, colleges and universities so that they can prepare for a return to face-to-face education.

“We want to give two weeks’ notice so that parents can make arrangements for the care of their children and we will be making announcements in the next few days.”

The schools minister “has failed to give parents, students and staff the credible plan they deserve”, shadow education secretary Kate Green has said.

She said: “I was pleased to see the schools minister at the despatch box, I’ve more hope of receiving answers from him than I’m used to from the Secretary of State, but even he has failed to give parents, students and staff the credible plan they deserve.

“We simply don’t know what the Government’s plan is for school reopening other than what we read in the newspapers.”

She added: “What is the plan for full reopening?… Can he give us some more clarity? Will schools only return if R is below one?”