This paper proposes a ‘safe schools policy’ aimed at mitigating the harms of school closure, ensuring the continuation of education during closure and enabling the return to schools as soon as possible by increasing the COVID security of the school environment.
Independent SAGE recognise that the decision, on January 4th, to close primary and secondary schools was necessary because of previous failures to implement COVID security measures, the consequent spread of infection in schools and the contribution of schools to rapidly increasing infection levels in the wider community. Given the critical position that had been reached, it was necessary to limit all forms of social contact, including within educational settings, in order to bring the pandemic back under control, to stop the NHS being overwhelmed and to save lives.
Independent SAGE also recognises the substantial harms caused by school closures in terms of both the immediate mental health of school students and their long-term future prospects. Moreover, these harms are far greater amongst the more deprived and precarious sections of the population notably because of the lack of resources necessary for remote study.