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Easing lockdown for school children: why so contentious?
  1. Amelia Swift
  1. Nursing, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Amelia Swift, Nursing, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK; a.swift{at}

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The past week has seen an explosion of media commentary about whether children in the UK should go back to school. Since ‘lockdown’ (23 March 2020) began schools have been open to vulnerable children and young people, and to the children of ‘key workers’. Right from the start there have been differing opinions about the necessity or wisdom of closing schools. Viner et al 1 produced a rapid systematic review that concludes that school closures have less impact on infection rate and mortality than other social distancing measures. Many countries have closed their schools for less time than the UK and have already started to reopen with several protective measures in place.2

Concerns about the long-term economic, social and mental impact of lockdown led to the generation of plans to ‘get back to business’. This was conveyed to the population of the UK on 10 May by the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson. He announced a range of measures to gradually reduce the level of lockdown. This is in keeping with modelling undertaken by various groups, including a preprint (not peer-reviewed) modelling exercise by Zhang et al.3

Mr Johnson announced that there would be a phased return (in England) of some children to school from 1 June. There are no national guidelines as it is recognised that school have differences that require a flexible approach, but there are a broad set of principles relating to social distancing and hygiene.

Government ministers and teachers’ unions have opposing views on the safety of reopening schools. In a joint statement nine unions representing teachers stated that they thought 1 June was too early to be safe.4 They recognise that the opening of schools is a vital part of restarting the UK economy, but they have concerns about the safety …

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