Thank you for contacting me about schools remaining open during the present lockdown.
I welcome the fact that schools, colleges and universities are remaining open.
Children and young people are, mercifully, much less susceptible than other age groups and much work has been done on making educational establishments Covid-secure. The damage caused to children’s and young people’s educational and life opportunities by closure of schools, colleges and universities cannot be overstated nor can the damage to health and society of the next generations not receiving the education and training they need to work in the public services and the economy in the future. The Government will have my full support in resisting the NEU leadership’s demand that schools close.
On the impact of Covid-19 on children, growing evidence assembled by such globally renowned centres of medical and scientific research as, among many others, the Royal College of Pediatrics, the European Centre for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics tells us, among other findings, that children are not transmitters of Covid-19 to a greater extent than adults; that there is no evidence from anywhere in the world of a school staff member catching Covid-19 from a child; that the vast majority of children who do develop the illness suffer mild ill-effects and are not seriously affected; and that severe illness or death among children is thankfully extremely rare. Further encouraging news is that there are strong indications that SARS-CoV-2 transmission in schools may be less important in community transmission than initially feared.
The Children's Commissioner for England, among many other authorities, notes that the impact of school closures on poorer and disadvantaged children has already been much more severe than on children with more advantages: the attainment and opportunity gaps in our society have grown as a result of schools being closed and will only widen still further if schools close again. Underachievement in education is associated with poorer health in later life. The NEU leadership appears not to take any of this into account.
Despite the best efforts of teachers and parents throughout the country to provide high quality remote learning, this is no substitute for face to face teaching. The period of partial school closures will inevitably have led to many children falling behind and so, for our children's welfare, their health and for their future, I am very pleased that school and other educational settings will remain open during the current period of national restrictions.
The measures taken to combat Covid-19 must be based on a careful calculation that they do not achieve minimal or no benefits in exchange for much greater potential adverse effects such as increasing social inequalities and so disadvantaging already struggling children and families. The proposal to close schools again does not, in my view, meet that requirement.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP