There has been a lot of coverage in the news about plans for some year groups (Nursery, Reception, Years 6, 10 and 12) to return to school from the start of June, with plans to bring back Years 10 and 12 by the end of the summer term. A small number of vulnerable children and the children of key workers have of course been in school throughout this pandemic.
Understandably, parents, teachers and Local Authorities are concerned about how these children will stay safe in school and are looking for guidance. Decisions will depend on many factors – local prevalence of Covid-19, the health of the child and his/her other family members and the ability of each school to provide a safe environment. The final decision always rests with family and returning to school at this point is not mandatory. However, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) are collating and regularly updating emerging evidence on children and this very new disease Covid-19 and this is summarised here https://www.rcpch.ac.uk/resources/covid-19-research-evidence-summaries. Emerging evidence indicates that Covid-19 is generally milder in children than adults and that most infected children present with mild symptoms or are asymptomatic, and very few develop life threatening disease. The RCPCH also point out that schools play a key role in promoting children’s health, social and mental well-being. Parents therefore need to weigh up the clinical risk of their child/children attending school with the consequences of missing out on education and time with their friends.
The RCPCH have just issued guiding principles about Covid-19 and returning to school and this document is found here https://www.rcpch.ac.uk/resources/covid-19-talking-children-families-about-returning-school-guiding-principles
With relation to Niemann-Pick diseases, the RCPCH advise that those children that have been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable (and are likely to be shielding) are advised at this point not to return to school. Children that are clinically vulnerable and under the care of their GP and those that are clinically vulnerable and cared for by secondary or specialist care are more likely to benefit from returning to school when their year group does. Families however may need a conversation with their child’s healthcare team to discuss individual concerns and circumstances and at any point can contact NPUK or speak to Laura Bell, NPUK’s Clinical Nurse Specialist for Niemann-Pick diseases. Adults with school age children who may be returning to school before September should also speak to their specialist centre or contact NPUK if they have any concerns.
In Scotland and Wales, only the children of key workers and vulnerable children currently have access to school and no dates for the return of any year groups have been announced. In Northern Ireland, again only the children of key workers and vulnerable children are currently in school and schools are not likely to open before September 2020 for all other pupils.