Balancing the Risks of Pupils Returning to Schools

As we move into a phase of continuously reviewing decisions to keep schools open or shut, we need to recognise there are risks from having schools open and risks from having schools shut. In open schools, the risks to pupils themselves from COVID-19 are very low, though there are risks to school staff, parents/carers and the wider community.
Closing schools causes loss of learning and deterioration in children’s mental and physical health, for example. Keeping schools shut increases inequalities, in both children’s education achievement and their long-term prospects. The goal of “levelling up” therefore needs schools to be open. Keeping schools open is also the key to unlocking the rest of the economy, allowing parents to leave teaching to teachers and return to their own jobs. The evidence on the infection risk from school opening is limited, though to date it suggests that the risk from opening schools, relative to restarting many other activities, is not as high. The experience of most other countries which have already taken this step supports this. By contrast, the evidence on the negative impact of closing schools is considerable and robust.
The report sets out this case in detail. The aim is to provide an evidence framework for understanding the risks involved in re-opening and re-closing schools.

Date Published: 24th July 2020
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