Mike Downham explains the poor science behind the government plans for schools reopening.
Recent headlining news – that all four UK Chief Medical Officers are reassuring parents about how safe it is for children to go back to school – demonstrates bad science on three counts:
- While children are presumed to be at low risk from the virus, the extent to which it’s safe for teachers, other school workers, parents, grandparents and the local community depends heavily on the infection levels in the wider community. If this is high, as it is in quite a number of localities at the moment, schools become spreaders. The Independent Sage Committee is clear about this.
- The comparison made between the risks of infection and the risks of being off school is false. The CMOs are conflating the known damage inflicted on children who in the past have been off school for long periods at a time when most children were not off school, with the unique Covid-19 experience of all children being off school for five months, most of the time with their parents off work or working from home. We don’t know anything yet about how damaging, or not, these five months have been for children.
- The four CMOs can only be saying this at one and the same time because of pressure from the Government. This is political propaganda, not science.
If we accept the definition of science as ‘the state of knowing: knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding’ – we know the scientifically correct reasons for this news item. The UK Government wants children back in school for two related reasons: first, so that their parents can go back to work to support the capitalist economy; second, so that the children can pass exams which qualify them to work in or have further training for that economy. The second reason is also the fundamental reason for the recent confusion about exam results, which may prove to have done more damage to children than their time out of school.