New research has given some insight into the effectiveness of school closures during a pandemic, by studying behaviours during disease outbreaks of the past.
A study by King’s College London has shown that many children continued to leave the house and mix with others during previous school closures despite public health recommendations.
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Older children engaged in more social contact while younger children remained with their parents for activities outside of the home such as shopping and chores.
Parents generally agreed with school closures but several of the main reasons for disagreeing were related to perceived risk and beliefs that closures do not protect against influenza.
The other main reasons for disagreeing were concerns about the impact on the child’s education, difficulties making childcare arrangements and the economic impact.
Andrea Danese, Professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the university, said: “This timely review suggests that school closure can be effective to reduce social interaction and, thus, the spread of infection.
“However, the review also clearly suggests that, for such top-down measures to be effective, children and families cannot simply be seen as passive recipients of government decisions.
“On the one hand, families need to be motivated to engage in collective action through clear information sharing as well as practical and financial support.
“On the other hand, interventions to promote children’s mental health can be key to facilitate their compliance in the face of significant demands, such as disruption of education and socialisation.”