The Chief Medical Officers and Deputy Chief Medical Officers of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have released a statement on the evidence of risks and benefits to health from schools and childcare settings reopening.
It states that “the current global pandemic means that there are no risk-free options, but it is important that parents and teachers understand the balance of risks to achieve the best course of action for their children.”
The report takes into account UK and international studies, together with summaries of the scientific literature from SAGE, the DELVE Group of the Royal Society, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, and data from the Office for National Statistics.
“We are confident that multiple sources of evidence show that a lack of schooling increases inequalities, reduces the life chances of children and can exacerbate physical and mental health issues. School improves health, learning, socialisation and opportunities throughout the life course including employment. It has not been possible to reduce societal inequalities through the provision of home-based education alone. School attendance is very important for children and young people.”
Teachers, other school staff and parents:
“Data from the UK (Office for National Statistics (ONS)) suggest teachers are not at increased risk of dying from COVID-19 compared to the general working-age population. ONS data identifies teaching as a lower risk profession (no profession is zero risk). International data support this.
Transmission of COVID-19 to staff members in school does occur, and data from UK and international studies suggest it may largely be staff to staff (like other workplaces) rather than pupil to staff. This reinforces the need to maintain social distancing and good infection control inside and outside classroom settings, particularly between staff members and between older children and adults.”
Impact of opening schools on wider transmission (R)
“Because schools connect households it is likely opening schools will put some upward pressure on transmission more widely and therefore increase R. We have confidence in the current evidence that schools are much less important in the transmission of COVID-19 than for influenza or some other respiratory infections. Other work and social environments also increase risk and are likely to be more important for transmission of COVID-19.”
In conclusion, the statement says; “Early identification and quickly managing outbreaks of COVID-19 in schools is essential as part of a local response to COVID-19. Clear advice for pupils and staff not to attend school with symptoms, and prompt availability of testing, appropriate isolation advice, and careful public health surveillance and monitoring of educational establishments are key to support the safe return to schools.
Read the full press release on the government website here.