Schools should reopen “as soon as it is safe to do so”, the British Medical Association has said, despite ministers facing pressure to reconsider for some pupils to return to the classroom next month.
The BMA’s public health medicine committee chairman Dr Peter English said there was “growing evidence” that the risk to children from coronavirus is “extremely small” – but cautioned there is “no united view yet” on whether children can spread it.
The doctors’ union previously said the Government should not consider reopening schools in England until the case numbers are “much lower”.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Dr English said: “The decision about when schools should be allowed to reopen is an extremely difficult one.
“We know that the longer children are kept away from the classroom, the greater the harm to their education, life opportunities and wellbeing.
“For disadvantaged children, this harm is even greater. A focus on arbitrary dates for schools to reopen is polarising.
“The BMA wants schools to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so and the evidence allows – this could be before June 1 or after. But a zero-risk approach is not possible. This is about ‘safe’ being an acceptable level of risk.”
A number of councils have advised their schools against reopening more widely to Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils from June 1 amid safety concerns.
The chief executive of the National Governance Association, Emma Knights, told BBC News that governing boards would have to “think very carefully” before disregarding the advice of local authorities”.
She added: “If they were to do that they would have to have very good reasons why they had come to a different conclusion.”
The comment came as a poll from teachers’ union NASUWT suggested that only 5% of teachers think it will be safe for more pupils to return to school next month.
General secretary Patrick Roach said the union remains “unconvinced” that wider reopening of schools from June 1 is “appropriate or practicable”.
Deputy chief scientific adviser Professor Dame Angela McLean told the daily Downing Street press conference on Tuesday that changes to the lockdown restrictions would require an effective system for tracing new cases to be in place.
Published: 20/05/2020 by Radio NewsHub