Coronavirus: ‘Great deal of logic’ in letting younger pupils return first, says Ofsted chief inspector

There’s a “great deal of logic” in allowing younger children to return to school first as the UK’s lockdown is eased, Ofsted’s chief inspector has told Sky News.

Amanda Spielman told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday show the interests of children were “best served” by “being back at school as soon as possible”, after coronavirus restrictions start to be lifted.

Schools in the UK have been closed because of COVID-19 – except for the attendance of children of key workers – since 20 March, but Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has told MPs the government is planning their “phased” reopening once the UK exits a full lockdown.

Although Ms Spielman said the return of schools should be weighed up against the possible impact on the NHS, she added: “If you look at the interests of children, it’s very clear that their interests are best served – in the vast majority of cases – by being back at school as soon as possible.”

She also suggested younger children should be the first to be sent back to classrooms.

“There’s a great deal of logic in targeting younger children,” she said.

“We know that making normality for children is really important and, the younger the child, the more they need that simple, structured routine where they understand what’s happening. And it’s hard for them to go to school one day and then not for another two weeks.

“So I entirely recognise and see the logic of this.

“I also think there’s a logic from the point of view of parents; the youngest children are the ones who need the greatest care and oversight.

“It’s hardest for parents to work and all the other things they need to do if they’re also looking after, perhaps, several younger children at the same time and trying to make sure they work through school work remotely.”

Ms Spielman added there are “encouraging signs” that children are “somewhat less susceptible” to coronavirus and “seem to be less likely to transmit” the disease.

But, asked if children might attend school on alternate days or weeks on the initial lifting of lockdown measures, Ms Spielman said there “doesn’t seem to be one obvious no-brainer answer” to how schools might reopen.

She also admitted parents, teachers and other school staff would need “reassurance” about the reopening of schools.

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