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Why did some parents not send their children back to school following school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic: A cross-sectional survey

Publication date: 

29 Sep 2021


BMJ Paediatric Open 2021 5(1)


Woodland L, Smith LE, Webster RK, Amlôt R, Rubin A, Wessely S, Rubin GJ

Publication type: 



Abstract Background On 23 March 2020, schools closed to most children in England in response to COVID-19 until September 2020. Schools were kept open to children of key workers and vulnerable children on a voluntary basis. Starting 1 June 2020, children in reception (4–5 years old), year 1 (5–6 years old) and year 6 (10–11 years old) also became eligible to attend school. Methods 1373 parents or guardians of children eligible to attend school completed a cross-sectional survey between 8 and 11 June 2020. We investigated factors associated with whether children attended school or not. Results 46% (n=370/803) of children in year groups eligible to attend school and 13% (n=72/570) of children of key workers had attended school in the past 7 days. The most common reasons for sending children to school were that the child’s education would benefit, the child wanted to go to school and the parent needed to work. A child was significantly more likely to attend if the parent believed the child had already had COVID-19, they had special educational needs or a person in the household had COVID-19 symptoms. Conclusions Following any future school closure, helping parents to feel comfortable returning their child to school will require policy makers and school leaders to communicate about the adequacy of their policies to: (A) ensure that the risk to children in school is minimised; (B) ensure that the educational potential within schools is maximised; and (C) ensure that the benefits of school for the psychological well-being of children are prioritised.