There is no convincing evidence that closing schools reduces the spread of
Despite the Cabinet’s insistence that the evidence from Government scientific advisers was ‘clear’ and that schools closed last week because ‘we had to act’, a review of studies from across the globe found no consensus on the issue – with the evidence, at best, ‘uncertain’.
It raises questions over what evidence – if any – advisers were using to force the Prime Minister into an abrupt U-turn just 24 hours after he insisted schools were safe.
It raises questions over what evidence – if any – advisers were using to force the Prime Minister into an abrupt U-turn just 24 hours after he insisted schools were safe
The review, the first to analyse all the work done in this area, was carried out by respected doctors and academics, including Professor Chris Bonell, who sits on the Government’s Sage advisory group, and the president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Professor Russell Viner.
Both have previously warned that children risk becoming a ‘lost generation’ because of the Government’s pandemic policies, including school closures.
The team found 3,318 articles published up to mid-October last year and focused on ten of the most robust. The papers had investigated whether sending pupils home had an effect on the transmission of the virus during the first wave. Three, including two of the most reliable, found keeping pupils at home had ‘no impact’ on curbing the virus, while seven reported ‘protective effects’, including one suggesting school closures led to a 62 per cent reduction in infection and deaths.
Both have previously warned that children risk becoming a ‘lost generation’ because of the Government’s pandemic policies, including school closures. Pictured: A pupil taking a Covid-19 test in Coulsdon, Surrey
But the authors said a ‘major challenge’ was in estimating whether the decision to send pupils home had led to that effect, or whether it was the result of other measures.
Their report, which has not been peer reviewed, concludes: ‘Our results are consistent with school closures being ineffective to very effective. With such varied evidence… policymakers should take a measured approach before implementing school closures.’
The Government is set to review the closures in mid-February, ahead of the half-term holiday.