Keeping schools open is at the heart of the recommendations made by a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) advising WHO/Europe on matters related to schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The group of interdisciplinary experts found that school closures should be considered as a last resort to control community transmission of SARS-CoV-2, due to their detrimental effect on children’s health and well-being. Measures to control outbreaks in school settings should be specific to the needs of different age groups and schools should have a well-balanced risk mitigation strategy in place.
Among their other recommendations, the TAG highlights that countries should guarantee access to devices and facilities required for online learning, and provide support to schools in deprived areas and for children living in vulnerable situations. They also urge countries to give weight to the voices of children and adolescents in relation to schooling and interventions during the pandemic.
The aim of the TAG is to identify findings from emerging evidence to inform policy decisions that will lessen the unintended negative effects of school closures and other infection prevention and control measures on children. Alongside the ongoing work of international partners such as UNICEF, UNESCO, ECDC and Education International, they aim to build the evidence base for keeping schools open safely, ensuring that children’s lives remain as unaffected as possible by the pandemic, while keeping transmission of the virus under control.