LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday called on parents to send their children back to school next month after the summer holidays, which he views as a key step to helping the country and its economy recover from the coronavirus lockdown.
Johnson followed up on a warning over the weekend from medical advisers who said that students faced bigger risks from missing out on their education than from catching the virus.
“The risk of contracting COVID-19 in school is very small and it is far more damaging for a child’s development and their health and well-being to be away from school any longer,” Johnson said in a statement.
“This is why it’s vitally important that we get our children back into the classroom to learn and to be with their friends. Nothing will have a greater effect on the life chances of our children than returning to school.”
Schools shut their doors in March, except for the children of key workers, and reopened in June for only a small number of pupils.
Getting students back to school would give parents a chance to return to their workplaces, which the government is encouraging to help the economy recover from its record 20% contraction in the second quarter.
However, confidence in the government’s approach to schooling took a hit last week when education minister Gavin Williamson was forced into a U-turn over examination results.
The chief medical officers to the governments of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on Saturday said there was a very low rate of severe disease in children, even if they caught COVID-19, and an exceptionally low risk of dying.
An opinion poll published by polling firm YouGov on Aug. 4 showed that 25% of respondents believed that schools should not reopen in September, with 57% saying that children return to the classroom.
(Writing by William Schomberg; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)