Around the developed world a debate is raging – when, how and why should schools re-start before the summer break. Many local authorities are defying central governments and now, the spectre of the past, unions are getting stuck in. Different professions are even stepping in to support educators claiming that it is premature to be opening schools and suggesting a further wait until after the summer break.
Governments needed to spread a message of fear to ensure people did lock-down and social distance back in March. However, I can’t help feeling that an unintended consequence is that, that fear, has led (understandably) to an irrational and illogical response to data driven instructions and policies that are being issued by many governments.
There’s a head and heart thing going on here for many of us – the head tells us that the data supports, categorically, a return to school leading to an unlocking of the economy. The heart wonders if any amount of risk to our nearest and dearest is acceptable.
In common with most of you, I’m a parent too. I accepted when my brood first went to school that a multitude of risks came with that action. The upsides of education; social contact, play, sport & learning far outweighed the risks of busy roads, germs, bullying, drugs and the multitude of factors that impact the child of today. Nailing my colours to the flagpole now, I am utterly comfortable that my children go back to school as soon as possible and here’s why…
I turn again to the data courtesy of ourworldindata.com which is utterly compelling:
The chance of a child aged under 19 getting COVID 19 is less than 0.1%
The chance of a child who does contract COVID 19 dying is less than 0.3%
The chance of an adult under 70 (99.5% of teachers are under 70) contracting & dying from COVID 19 is less than 3%
These statistics make quite clear that our children are much more likely to suffer injury or god forbid death from a road accident near the school gates than Corona virus. And adults under 70 years old are statistically much more likely to die from cancer than COVID. Even if you overlay potentially extra vulnerable groups for example of ethnic background, the risk to children and their teachers barely changes.
So, if the argument goes along the lines that it’s the R factor (the rate of spread) that matters here i.e. a child could pass it to a teacher in a vulnerable group who passes it to an elderly person. Here’s the rub, that could happen. But the data tells us that the chances of that happening are far lower than the public debate would have us believe. 3 months ago we accepted very many risks when we sent our children to School, now suddenly we are fearing a risk that barely exists. I believe in schools and education authorities – they have our children’s best interests at heart and will do all they can to make sanitised environments for our children. We trusted those bodies before so let’s trust them again now.
This blog would be remiss if we didn’t talk about the disgraceful impact of school closures on children living in poverty. Great progress has been made in the last 60 years to get our most vulnerable children receiving a decent, basic start from their School years. But, the richest 10 countries in the world still produce far too many high school leavers with almost no qualifications & little direction. As adults we think of 3 months as being a blink of an eye, but to a child 3 months is life-time – a period of missed education that might never be made up. We have a duty of care to ensure these children (many of whom don’t have access to wifi or devices to receive online teaching) get back to school. The risk of them falling further behind and dropping out of the system is far greater than any health risk they face. #schoolsaresafe