Statement: Commissioner encourages ‘last to close and first to open’ approach to schools in the pandemic

As a Member of the WHO European Technical Advisory group for schooling during COVID-19, the Commissioner endorses the recommendations developed to encourage governments to adopt a ‘last to close and first to open’ approach to schools in the pandemic.

Children and Young People’s Commissioner, Bruce Adamson said:

“Children’s right to education has been severely disrupted in the last 18 months, affecting not only learning but many other aspects of children’s rights including to good mental health and to socialisation. Schools and Early Years Centres are so much more than places of education, they are important communities. They are where children and young people go to learn, but also where they socialise, eat, play, have fun – all essential for their development. They can also be places where children feel safest – and where they access support. This is even more significant for children who are vulnerable or need additional support.

“We must continue to develop and implement the mitigation strategies that enable schools and early years centres remain open including necessary ventilation. We must also remain focused on reducing Covid-19 in the community by everyone taking precautions and by focusing on testing and vaccination.

“Children and young people continue to live with a huge amount of uncertainty in their lives due to Covid-19 and their views must be a part of any decision-making that affects their lives. Children have told me throughout this pandemic that they have felt largely ignored, but face huge impact from decisions made without their input. Any decisions made should be informed by their views and experience and communicated clearly and directly to them.

“Children’s access to education and support in places of learning must be our top priority. This means we may need necessary and proportionate restrictions in other aspects of society in order to keep schools open.”

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