HAMPSHIRE County Council "responded swiftly" to the government's announcement that schools would close, a senior councillor has said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced late on Monday night that schools were to close the following day to all but vulnerable children and those of key workers.

But with just a handful of hours to prepare for the new rules, at least 55 schools in Hampshire had to fully close on Tuesday.

This caused chaos with some key workers unable to go to work as they had to look after their children - including some staff at Hampshire Hospitals.

Now, the county council's executive member for education has outlined the measures that it put in place to ensure services could continue.

Cllr Roz Chadd, who also represents the Farnborough North division, told The Gazette: "What a difference 24 hours can make. We now find ourselves in a further national lockdown, with the Prime Minister confirming that only vulnerable children and the children of critical workers should attend school. Clearly, this now places a far different emphasis on home learning requirements.

"We responded swiftly. On Monday evening, our Inclusion Officers provided primary schools with a full remote learning package for their pupils for the first two days of lockdown.

"This support was important in giving schools the much-needed breathing space to be able to prepare their own, tailored remote learning lesson content and timetables - picking up the themes they have been following, and to meet the varying needs of their pupils.

"This same team of specialists will be working continuously to support schools to deliver a high level of education via remote learning over the next six weeks, just as they did during the previous national lockdown."

The authority had said as recently as Monday that they were 'unable to provide the same level of education' to those who did not attend school, after a number of parents chose not to send their children back after the Christmas break.

But Cllr Chadd said "the advice given was in line with the government's expectation at the time - that all primary pupils should be in school".

She said that remote learning "in this context" was "not appropriate", and that council officers and specialists will continue to work with schools whilst most learning is done remotely.

She added: "Schools have had to overcome numerous additional challenges caused by the Coronavirus pandemic and have worked hard at every level, to ensure children and young people are well supported and have access to a good education while they are at home.

"They face this next lockdown with the benefit of experience and an ongoing commitment to provide the best teaching they can during the coming weeks.

"I know that they will be doing their very best for Hampshire’s children and young people and I know that parents and carers will be doing the same.

"Further, I’d like to add that parents and carers can find additional information and guidance on gov.uk/coronavirus and on our website, including access to mental health and wellbeing advice.

"However, if they have particular concerns about their child, I encourage them to contact their school’s headteacher."