June 1 is “too early” for schools to reopen, a former government chief scientific adviser has said.
Schools in England should not reopen on June 1 because there is “no clear evidence” that it is safe for them to do so, an independent group of scientists warned on Friday.
The Independent Sage committee, which is separate from the government’s official advisers and is chaired by the former government chief scientist Sir David King, says new modelling of coronavirus shows the risk to children will be halved if they return to school two weeks later than ministers propose. Delaying until September would further reduce the risk.
The extra two weeks would allow more time for infections to fall in the community and for crucial track and trace capacity to be built up so new cases are found and isolated fast.
“It is clear from the evidence we have collected that 1 June is simply too early to go back. By going ahead with this dangerous decision, the government is further risking the health of our communities and the likelihood of a second spike,” Prof King said.
Local authorities must be certain of low community infection rates and have the ability to track and trace new cases of coronavirus before schools can reopen, according to a report by the group of researchers known as the “independent Sage” committee.
“It is clear from the evidence we have collected that June 1 is simply too early to go back. By going ahead with this dangerous decision, the government is further risking the health of our communities and the likelihood of a second spike,” said David King, the group’s chair and the government’s former chief scientific adviser.
In a draft consultation published on Friday, the experts say local authorities must demonstrate low levels of infection and an ability to contain new infections before schools are reopened, with public consultation a vital part of the decision-making process.
The report urges authorities to consider summer camps and outdoor schools for educating children, with community playing fields and sports clubs requisitioned for teaching purposes.
King said the decision of when to reopen schools was a “careful balance” but added it was vital for young people to get back to the classroom as soon as it was safe to do so. “The current climate is likely to disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged in society, therefore it is vital that the government also considers innovative ways to help those who need it most.”
Home education on a budget? “Stick them in front of the TV”
The BBC unveiled its biggest push on education in its history – ensuring that every child in the UK has the opportunity to continue to follow the appropriate core parts of their nation’s school curriculum in these challenging times.
Whether complementing what schools are providing remotely, or as a standalone resource, the BBC’s newly expanded education offer will bring 14 weeks of educational programmes and lessons to every household in the country – whatever your child’s age.
Every child in the UK to have their education supported as BBC offers a wide range of curriculum related learning for children of all ages across all four nations
Famous faces Karim Zeroual, Oti Mabuse and Katie Thistleton alongside top quality teachers and organisations such as Royal Shakespeare Company, Premier League and Puffin Books lend their support.
Daily programmes to help guide parents and children through their learning day
BBC Bitesize to deliver daily online lessons for all age groups.
Content such as videos, quizzes, podcasts and articles will bring core subjects to life online at BBC Bitesize Commencing on 20 April, the start of the summer term for most children, BBC Bitesize Daily, as the service will be called will deliver a tailored day of learning across BBC iPlayer, Red Button, BBC Bitesize website and app, BBC Four and BBC Sounds, with curriculum relevant offers across the UK. Together, this comprehensive package is aimed at minimising disruption to children’s education and providing rhythm and routine in these challenging times.