The decision came after headteachers were increasingly having to turn away pupils anyway because of staff shortages
Britain on Wednesday ordered schools, nurseries and colleges to close for millions of children until further notice after criticism that the government was being too slow to react to the spread of coronavirus.
Most schools will close from Friday, although some will be asked to stay open to support the children of essential workers like health care employees, education minister Gavin Williamson told parliament.
"I know the situation has become increasingly challenging. I said before that if the science and the advice changed such that keeping schools open would no longer be in the best interests of children and teachers that we would act," he said.
"We are now at that stage. The spike of the virus is increasing at a faster pace than anticipated."
The shutting of so many schools will have huge economic and social repercussions for the world's fifth-biggest economy. It will alter the lives of almost 9 million British children and force parents to stay home from work to look after them.
The decision came after headteachers were increasingly having to turn away pupils anyway because of staff shortages.
The move to shut schools is a reversal of the government's recent cautious stance toward tackling the virus.
Britain had previously resisted pressure to follow the lead of Italy, France, and Spain, saying that school closures would not halt the outbreak and would deprive the country of key public sector workers.
All exams will be cancelled, but the government will find a way to ensure students get their qualifications, Williamson said.
The school closure comes after the number of deaths of people who tested positive for coronavirus in England rose to 99, a 48% jump from the day before.
Earlier, Scotland announced it would close its schools from Friday and the government in Edinburgh said there was no guarantee they will reopen before the summer.
"We will of course only keep them closed for as long as we absolutely have to," said first minister Nicola Sturgeon. "But at this stage, I cannot promise that they will reopen before the summer holidays."
Williamson said some schools will stay open to support the children of key workers like doctors, the police or delivery drivers, including during the upcoming Easter holidays.
However, this means some children will go to different schools, if their own has been shut down.
Kevin Courtney, joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, welcomed the government's announcement.
"It is better for this to take place in an ordered way than the chaotic pattern of closures that was developing," he said.