WINCHESTER'S secondary schools are delaying the start of the spring term.

Kings', the city's biggest school, is the first to alert parents about the changes next week to help cope with the Covid-19 surge.

It follows an announcement by the education secretary Gavin Williamson. Most primary schools are expected to open on Monday.

Kings' secondary school will be delaying the return of most pupils for two weeks until Monday January 18.

In a letter to parents yesterday, acting head Rob Jeckells said Monday January 4 would be an inset day, or in-service training day, when the school is closed to pupils.

Only the children of 'critical workers' and specially-invited pupils will start on Tuesday January 5. All other teaching will be online. Pupils will return for 8.45am and lunch will be provided as normal.

Year 11 pupils, who will be sitting GCSE exams in the summer, will return on Monday January 11. From Monday January 18, pupils in Years 7, 8, 9 and 10 will return to school.

Mr Jeckells said the plans are subject to change. In his letter, Mr Jeckells stated: "You will have heard much in the news about the possibility of mass testing for Covid-19 in schools via lateral flow device tests and we are already considering how this could be organised at Kings’.

"Information for schools about mass testing is still limited at this time, and we will contact you again when we have received more detail from the Department for Education and Public Health England. In the meantime, I would like to thank those of you who have completed the Covid Test Consent and Attendance form found via the link found in my previous letter. It would be most helpful to our planning if parents who have not already completed this form could do so before Monday 4 January.

Kings' has around 1,650 pupils and is one of the biggest comprehensives in Hampshire, taking pupils from a wide area including Southampton and Eastleigh.

Mr Jeckells said the arrangement are subject to change "due to staff illness / isolation or other specific operational circumstances."