One of the most detailed studies yet will show it is safe for schools to fully reopen next month, a leading child health expert has assured parents and students.
The research, carried out in 100 institutions in the UK, will confirm “there is very little evidence” of coronavirus transmission where pupils have returned, Professor Russell Viner said.
“The risks to children from Covid are very low and the risks of school closures we know are very serious,” said the president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
The prime minister cited growing fears about obesity, depression and abuse, as well as diminished education – with many children having not seen a classroom since the lockdown in March.
The National Education Union has called the supposed protections of better hygiene, student ‘bubbles’ and staggered drop off and lunch times “unworkable”.
And Nick Gibb, the schools minister, acknowledged ministers cannot “decree” that all schools reopen for all year groups, because decisions will be made by local health chiefs.
But Professor Viner, a member of the government advisory group Sage, said: “Britain as a nation should stand up and say: our children are essential.”
About 20,000 pupils and teachers in 100 schools across England were tested to monitor the spread of the disease up to the end of the summer term,” the professor told The Sunday Times.
“This is the some of the largest data you will find on schools anywhere. Britain has done very well in terms of thinking of collecting data in schools,” he explained.
His team had also reviewed 35 studies from around the world that had examined schools and the coronavirus.
One finding has been that “children play a minor role in transmission of the virus and schools play a minor role in transmission of the virus”.
“Everything you do to reopen society will impact the national R [rate], but reopening schools, we believe, has a very small impact on it. The majority of cases are staff, not students.” Professor Viner said.
But she called for “weekly” coronavirus testing in all schools, telling Times Radio: “It should become part and parcel of what a good system around school should look like.”