The British government sees it as a priority to get all children back to school, as the loss of schooling could “put a huge dent in their future life chances,” UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said on Sunday.
“If a child is not in school, they stand to lose far more than just a few months of learning. It could well put a huge dent in their future life chances,” he wrote in an open letter to parents.
“Our priority now is to get all our children back,” he said. “It really is the best place for them to be. Nothing can match being in a classroom with a real teacher to inspire them and their friends to share their discoveries.”
Williamson’s letter follows a direct appeal from Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging parents to return their children to the classroom.
“It’s vitally important that we get our children back into the classroom to learn and to be with their friends,” he said in an Aug. 24 statement, as “nothing will have a greater effect on the life chances of our children than returning to school.”
British schools closed in late March as part of the lockdown measures imposed to contain the outbreak of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus. Only children of “essential workers” such as doctors, police officers, and food retailers were allowed to attend school.
As the summer break draws to a close, Scottish schools re-opened on Aug. 11. Schools in England are due to open later this week.
Williamson sought to allay fears that children may get infected with the virus at school.
“I would urge you to keep in mind that all four of our country’s chief medical officers, including Chris Whitty, are unanimous in believing the health risk posed by COVID-19 to children is extremely low,” he wrote.
In an unusual move, the chief medical officers and deputy chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales issued a “consensus statement” on Aug. 22 in support of the government’s decision to reopen schools.
“Our overall consensus is that, compared to adults, children may have a lower risk of catching COVID-19 (lowest in younger children), definitely have a much lower rate of hospitalisation and severe disease, and an exceptionally low risk of dying from COVID-19,” they said in the statement.
“This has to be set against a certainty of long-term harm to many children and young people from not attending school,” they wrote, adding “a lack of schooling increases inequalities, reduces the life chances of children and can exacerbate physical and mental health issues.”
A study released by Public Health England on Aug. 23 shows CCP virus outbreaks and infections in schools are rare.