Opening schools – and keeping them open – should be prioritised by Government, report says


27-07-2020
  A child writes in his workbook in a school classroom.  Credit: Martin Vorel

Keeping schools open from September should be a Government priority as it manages the COVID-19 pandemic, while closures could have severe social and economic effects that endure for decades, according to a new report.

The report, Balancing the risks of pupils returning to school, highlights the potential impact on the 13 year-groups of students affected by lockdown. It estimates that, without action, from the mid-2030s and for the 50 years thereafter, around a quarter of the entire workforce will have lower skills.

This could reduce their earning potential by 3% a year and consequently lower the overall economic growth rate. The long-term economic consequences aside, the immediate negative impact on children’s mental and physical health, as well as their safety, will be considerable.

The report has been produced by the Royal Society’s multi-disciplinary Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics (DELVE) group. The lead authors are Professor Anna Vignoles, University of Cambridge, and Professor Simon Burgess, University of Bristol.

Their assessment looks at the difficulties of balancing the significant costs to pupils and parents of school closures against the need to minimise the risks of COVID-19 infection to children, teachers and the wider community.

It concludes that the risk of infection from restarting schools is not high, relative to many other activities, although the authors recognise that the evidence on this still limited. The experience of most other countries which have already taken this step supports this view, the authors say, and by contrast the evidence for the negative impact of closing schools is considerable and robust.

The report also observes that when infection rates rise in some locations, schools may need to close, but such decisions should be determined by objective criteria and made on a school-by-school, or local area basis.

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Image:  A child writes in his workbook in a school classroom.

Credit: Martin Vorel

Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge

 

The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.

University of Cambridge (cam.ac.uk)