Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said schools in England will get two weeks notice before re-opening following a third national lockdown.

Pupils across the country were told to return to online learning as schools closed in an attempt to tackle a concerning rise in coronavirus infection rates at the start of January.

The Government faced criticism after allowing schools to return from the Christmas break for one day and the education secretary confirmed schools will not go into the next term unprepared and vowed to give schools plenty of notice.

 Mr Williamson said that he wanted to get pupils back in the classroom at the “earliest possible opportunity”.

“I would certainly hope that that would be certainly before Easter,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Mr Williamson said that a key criteria in determining when schools could reopen would be whether the pressures on the NHS had eased sufficiently.

He said the Government aimed to give schools a “clear two-week notice period” so that they were able to prepare properly to welcome pupils back.

The Education Secretary also said he hoped that a programme of daily coronavirus tests in secondary schools and colleges as an alternative to self-isolation would be able to resume.

Under the scheme, pupils and staff who were in close contact with someone who has tested positive would be tested for seven days and they would be allowed to remain in school if the test was negative.

However the scheme was suspended on Wednesday on the advice of Public Health England amid concerns about the new variant coronavirus.

“They wanted to look at more detail as to how that was working with the new variant. We very much hope that we will be able to restart that programme that worked so well,” Mr Williamson told BBC Breakfast.

During a round of broadcast interviews, he brushed off calls by Labour to resign following a series of U-turns during the pandemic.

“My real focus is making sure that children get back into school at the earliest possible opportunity,” he told Sky News.