The majority of primary schools will open as planned on January 4, but there will be a one week delay and then a staggered return for secondary school age pupils and those in colleges.
University students will also be prioritised based on their learning needs and will be offered two rapid tests upon their return.
The Secretary for Education Gavin Williamson said the best way to keep schools open is using mass testing, as he outlined plans for the start of the new term.
He said the latest study from Public Health England shows that COVID-19 infections among children are triggered by changes in the community rate and that the wider impact of schools closures on their development would be significant.
The majority of primary schools will open as planned on January 4, except for in a small number of areas where infection rates are highest where the government will implement the existing framework that only children of key workers and vulnerable children will attend. A list of these areas will be published in due course.
Ongoing testing for primary schools will follow in January.
There will be a staggered return for secondary school age pupils and those in colleges. This will allow more time so that every school and college can fully roll out testing for all its staff and pupils.
During the first week of term, on or after January 4, secondary schools and colleges will prepare to test as many staff and students as possible and will only be open initially to vulnerable children and those of key workers.
All pupils in exam years are to return during the week of January 11, with all secondary school and college students returning full-time on January 18. The full return of all pupils in all year groups will be on January 18 in most areas.
Gavin Williamson said the mass testing will benefit everyone in the community and help to break the chain of transmission.
He added that those in exam years will be at the head of the queue for testing.
Meanwhile, he asked that universities reduced the number of students who return to campus at the start of January, prioritising those who require practical learning to gain their professional qualifications.
All students should be offered two rapid tests on their return to university.