Child learning at home

Schools are closing again in response to surging levels of COVID-19 infection, but staging randomised trials when students eventually return could help to clarify uncertainties around when we should send children back to the classroom, according to a new study. 

Experts say that school reopening policies currently lack a rigorous evidence base - leading to wide variation in policies around the world, but staging cluster randomized trials (CRT) would create a body of evidence to help policy makers take the right decisions. 

The pandemic’s rapid onslaught meant many public health policies had to be put into practice quickly despite uncertainty about the risks from SARS-CoV-2 and the effectiveness of various prevention measures. 

An international research team say that when governments renew steps toward re-opening schools, there will be an opportunity to answer questions about the impact of closures on transmission of the virus, as well as when and how these restrictions can be safely lifted. 

Led by scientists at the University of Birmingham, the team – which includes experts from Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania and Western University, Canada – today published their findings in Clinical Trials. 

Report co-author Professor Karla Hemming, from the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Applied Health Research, commented:

 “As COVID-19 cases and deaths ebb and flow around the world, the question of when and how to withdraw public health policies is pressing. 

“Many regions face new waves of outbreaks and new lockdowns. Whether and when schools can re-open and stay open will continue to be a question of upmost importance, but policymakers are left to make such decisions in the absence of rigorous evidence. 

“Given the impact of school closures on both education and the economy, schools cannot remain closed indefinitely. But when and how can they be reopened safely? A cluster randomized trial is a rigorous and ethical way to resolve these uncertainties.” 

Whilst a firm date for a return to school is not possible, a firm plan for the return is essential 

Paul Whiteman 100x100Responding to the Secretary of State's inability to confirm a date that schools will reopen after half term during this morning’s round of media interviews, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“Families and school leaders alike, who want to see disruption to pupils’ learning kept to an absolute minimum, will be very frustrated that restricted access to school looks set to continue beyond half term.

“That said, a firm announcement will bring clarity so that schools and families can respond to the decisions of government. The Secretary of State has done the right thing in not pursuing a hard date for a return to school and then waiting for the science to catch up.

“Government tells us that the rationale for restricting access to school has always been about suppressing community transmission, and all the while those rates remain dangerously high, the government has decided that restricted access to schools is an important part of the response.

“The government is not without options in other areas though, and it should remember this. All the while most pupils are locked down, the government must make sure it is doing everything in its power to meet the immediate needs of young people, anticipate what else might be necessary and set out the details of a longer term recovery.

“Nearly a year on from the start of the pandemic, we still don’t have this in place. The solution is to bring school leaders into the decision-making process, rather than paying lip service to engagement and issuing threats of legal action and inspection. Trusting the expertise, hard work and dedication of the profession is the route out of the pandemic, as far as education is concerned.”

Researchers noted wide variation between countries.

Swedish schools remained open for under-16s throughout the pandemic, whilst Denmark, Germany, and Norway reopened schools after a period of closure.  Italy and Spain chose to keep schools closed until autumn last year, whilst schools in Austria, the Czech Republic, and Russia have at times closed. Variability is also seen within the United States at state and county level. 

Justifications for these decisions varied, with some officials relying on local test positivity rates and others focusing on numbers of new cases within schools. 

Re-opening primary schools in Quebec, Canada, was associated with relatively few new cases, yet opening primary and secondary schools in Israel was associated with several outbreaks and the re-closure of some schools. 

The researchers say CRTs are well suited to the rigorous evaluation of public health policies, with key aspects of trial design deserving special attention:

  • Running such a study should only be considered when community transmission is under control and the health system has capacity.
  • As the main interest is community transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the study would have to include many municipalities or regions.
  • Entire regions (including all schools within) would be randomized to either remain closed or to re-open.
  • For schools reopening, this would mean operating under precautions, including social distancing, mask wearing, and possibly evening testing. Teachers and children are clinically extremely vulnerable should be allowed to remain at home.
  • For schools remaining closed, the burdens of keeping schools closed require careful consideration, especially for those who are more vulnerable at home.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel shared a video in channel. 8 hours 46 minutes ago

Digifest 2021 expo orientation

Get a first look at the Digifest 2021 expo area, as well as useful information on how to move around and explore the interactive elements.

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter 8 hours 47 minutes ago

RT @FENews: The three things Rishi Sunak needs to address in his March Budget: Senior IFS Research Economist Jonathan Cribb looks at the Ch…
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page