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expert reaction to new temporary COVID-19 measures in education settings

The new temporary measures put in place to “buy more time” for our scientists to understand the situation were announced by Boris Johnson on Saturday 27 November.


Dr Michael Absoud FRCPCH PHD, Honorary Reader, Dept of Women & Children’s Health, King’s College London, said:

“The indirect effects of the covid-19 pandemic threaten to have a substantial and long-lasting negative impact on children and young people’s physical and mental health. Some have already been disproportionately affected by containment policies such as social distancing, repeated isolation of school bubbles, and closure of schools. Adding new uncertainty and worry for children (particularly those in exam years) and their families at this time needs to be very carefully considered. With only 2 1/2 weeks left until the end of term, cancelling school children’s Christmas parties, plays, choirs and concerts whilst adult activities are ongoing also needs careful consideration within a successful vaccine and booster programme.

“In particular, children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and those from deprived communities experienced specific additional health challenges as a result of covid-19 restrictions, which led to disruption of routines and structure, which they normally rely on. In addition to the increased uncertainty and lost educational support, the significant reduction in respite, therapy, social care, nutritional and after school support posed additional threats for vulnerable families.

“Education is a social determinant of health, particularly in those with special educational needs. Many children and young people with SEND receive additional educational support in the form of specially designed plans to meet their educational needs.

“In the UK, plans for recovery are already not ambitious enough compared to similar high-income countries.

 “It is important a holistic view is adopted, integrating resources towards not only physical health, but also towards children’s mental and emotional health, as well as their access to additional support in education.”

References : Shah R, Absoud M. The failure of provision for neurodiverse children during the covid-19 pandemic.  BMJ. 2021 Nov 5;375:n2711. doi: 10.1136/bmj.n2711.


Dr Stephen Griffin, Associate Professor in the School of Medicine, University of Leeds, said:

“Any improvements to the provision in schools is welcome, but these changes don’t go far enough to counter transmission of either Omicron or Delta SARS-CoV2.

“Masks in communal areas, where pupils spend comparatively little time compared to classrooms, ought to be extended to the latter as this scenario is far more likely to result in transmission due to the proximity and length of interactions between both students and staff.

“It is also clear that primary, as well as secondary schools are driving transmission, so it would make sense to intervene in this arena as well; additionally many children in the secondary setting have younger siblings. The issue of ventilation has still not been addressed, requiring the active development of safe spaces and supplementation with filtration where possible, in addition to installing CO2 monitors. It is also not clear what action is to be followed should CO2 monitors indicate unsafe settings. Reimplementing smaller, focused bubbles would also prevent spread without the widespread disruption seen previously.

“Whilst it is possible to discriminate Omicron cases by the loss of S gene PCR positivity, this could also slow the turnaround of testing and it is still unclear how COVID in children might differ between these two lineages. Whilst the relative risk for young children is smaller in terms of severe disease, the current scale of the epidemic in these age groups is driving ~1000 hospitalisations of under 18 year olds per month since July (according to the DHSC dashboard), and, although extremely rare, some children do die from COVID-19. Moreover, long COVID is a clear issue affecting tens of thousands of young people.

“If Omicron is as immune-evasive as feared, the reassurances from some quarters around infection-induced immunity in children may be even less valid than previously thought, and I would advocate double vaccination in all school-age children, following the lead of other countries in response to extensive trial and now clinical use data.”



All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:



Declared interests

Dr Stephen Griffin: “No conflicts”

None others received.

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