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Putting children at the heart of scientific advice on Covid-19

By July 16, 2020National News

Published 13th July 

In May, concerned about the effects that lockdown and school closures might have on different groups of children, The Children’s Commissioner published a briefing that informed the public debate by weighing up the issues – scientific and otherwise – around children returning back to school. The key point we made was that “Is it safe for children to go back to school?” is not the right question to ask. It’s more meaningful to ask “On balance, given all types of risk to children’s wellbeing and development, is it optimal for them to stay out of school?” 

A lot of evidence has emerged on the negative effects of school closures. It has widened the disadvantage gap because poorer children and their more affluent peers.   

Last month, groups of paediatricians and child psychologists added their voice to the call for children to return to school as soon as possible, and echoed many of our points. All political parties now agree on the need to get all children back to school in September, as does the National Education Union. 

While school closures are an important aspect of how Covid-19 has disrupted children’s lives, we must not forget it has also led to closures of parks, playgrounds, summer schemes, sports activities, and youth clubs. This still leaves many children ‘hidden’ from view and vulnerable to harm, online exploitation and gangs – as well as having hardly anything to do over the school holidays. 

What ties all these restrictions together is a requirement for children to socially distance – and more specifically, to do so in the same way that adults must. We wanted to understand the reasons for this, especially as research evidence is starting to indicate that, compared to adults, children are at lower risk from Covid-19 and play a limited role in transmitting it. Should public health guidance designed for adults be applied to children as well? 

To read the rest of this article go to the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (opens in a new tab) 

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