Children’s education has consistently been a national priority, which is why we want classrooms to reopen wherever possible in the new term. It is widely acknowledged that education is the best place for children and young people.
Writing in today’s Mail on Sunday, the Education Secretary outlined the importance of protecting education to ensure children do not “bear the heaviest cost while beating this virus”.
The Prime Minister reiterated this today on the Andrew Marr Show, where he advised families to send their children back to primary schools where they are still scheduled to reopen for the new term. He highlighted that the risk to children and to young people is very small, which has also been supported by a Senior Medical Adviser at public Health England.
Dr Susan Hopkins, Senior Medical Adviser at Public Health England said:
Attending school is important for the mental health and educational benefits for children. School closure can reduce transmission but the public health advice remains that they should be the last to close and the first to re-open. Where rates are extremely high, continuing to rise and the NHS is under significant pressure, it may be necessary to move to remote learning as a last resort.
The majority of children and young people have no symptoms or very mild illness, but we all need to take responsibility for driving infections down if we want to keep schools open for our children – we must continue to reduce our contacts, keep our distance washing our hands and wearing a mask to help stop the spread of the virus.
Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman, also supported the Government’s approach, writing in today’s Telegraph that we must “renew and maintain the consensus that children’s time out of school should be kept to the absolute minimum”.
The piece reflected on the importance of schools for young people and emphasised the point that children’s lives “can’t just be put on hold while we wait for vaccination programmes to take effect … we cannot furlough young people’s learning their wider development”.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
Children’s education has consistently been a national priority, which is why we want classrooms to reopen wherever possible in the new term. Schools will continue to implement appropriate safety measures to help mitigate the risk of transmission.
As we’ve said, we will move to remote education as a last resort, with involvement of public health officials, in areas where infection and pressures on the NHS are highest.