Paediatricians urge Boris Johnson to open schools saying further delay will put ‘life chances’ at risk

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  • Paediatricians have spoken out urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to open schools as soon as possible.

    More than 1,500 UK paediatricians have signed an open letter to the prime minister calling for a set plan for how and when children will start to return to school.

    Speaking of the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused schools to be closed since March, the letter read, ‘this interruption is without precedent and risks scarring the life chances of a generation of young people.

    Pointing out how only a low percentage of young people have suffered from COVID-19, the experts went on to highlight that ‘the health and social impact will be severe.’

    MORE: How would social distancing in schools work?

    The brunt of the impact of COVID-19 is and will continue to be borne by children and families who have the fewest resources and need the most support,’ they added, stressing an issue that has been highlighted this week by Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford.

    Left unchecked, COVID-19 will exacerbate existing problems and deepen structural social and health inequalities.’

    ‘School is about much more than learning,’ they continued. ‘It is a vital point of contact for public health services, safeguarding and other initiatives.

    This includes access to mental health support, vaccinations, special therapies, free school meals, physical activity and early years services that help children get the best start in life.

    ‘For many children and their families, these interventions are the difference between surviving and thriving’.

    Professor Russell Viner, President of the RCPCH (Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health), said of the letter, “Children need their schools. Every child deserves to have an uninterrupted education and teachers, school leaders and local authorities have worked tirelessly to provide that before and during COVID.

    paediatricians letter boris johnson open schools coronavirus lockdown

    Schoolchildren have been forced to try and continue their education from home throughout the coronavirus lockdown (Credit: Getty)

    “But teachers do so much more than teach and schools provide so much more than education.

    “Schools are vital to the wellbeing of children and young people, providing a range of services from vaccinations to mental health support.

    “Schools are also where at-risk children are looked out for and supported. Right now, we don’t know how some of the most vulnerable children in our society are faring because they are outside of the safety net that school provides.”

    MORE: Should I send my child back to school? Your rights as a parent

    Consultant community paediatrician Dr Liz Marder, who signed the letter within two minutes of it being sent out, added, “Up until now, very few children have been directly affected by COVID-19. But, indirectly, many children and young people have suffered enormously from the impact that the pandemic has had on their daily lives.

    “It is our most vulnerable children, such as those from disadvantaged families or those with additional needs, who may suffer most.

    “Getting children safely back into education as soon as we can has to be a priority if we are to avoid further damage to the health, well-being and life chances of so many of our young people.”

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