‘Schools must be last to close and first to open if lockdown hits’

Professor Russell Viner, who is part of SAGE, has warned against prolonged school closures to save the health of children.

The former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health believes that schools should be given the resources to remain open if Covid cases rise again.

Half of the schools in England have already turned to supply teachers to get the cover they need because of staff absences.

Prof Viner, from University College London, is an expert in child and adolescent health and claims that school closures bring “high risks” to children.

Writing for the British Medical Journal Prof Viner said: “There is now clear evidence that pandemic related school closures harm children.

“Prolonged school closures bring high risk of poor mental health, obesity, and child abuse, as well as loss of learning.

“The National Mental Health of Children and Young People study showed that likely mental health disorders in English children and young people increased from 1 in 9 to 1 in 6 during the pandemic.

“The National Child Measurement Programme found that childhood obesity in England increased by 4.5% from 2019 to 2020.

“School closures reduce the visibility of children at risk, with medical referrals for child protection falling 36%-39% during the pandemic.

“Due to sensitive periods of brain and cognitive development, this generation of children’s loss of learning during the pandemic cannot simply be compensated for by catch-up work at a later date and will contribute to poorer health and lower life expectancy in the long term.”

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