The Maltese Association of Psychiatry urges the Department of Education to keep schools open and not rob the future generation of an education

Returning to school or college is vital for children and young people’s education and for their wellbeing. Time out of an education setting is detrimental to cognitive and academic development, particularly for disadvantaged children and young people. This impact can affect both current levels of learning and children and young people’s future ability to learn, and therefore we need to ensure all pupils and students can return to their setting sooner rather than later. Over the past few months  the MAP has noticed an rise in the number of children and adolescents being referred to mental health services due to a determination in their overall mental health during this peri of COVID, and although it has only been a couple of weeks, the feedback psychiatrists have been receiving from parents and children alike has been all positive. Children do not attend school just to learn academic information but also for social interaction, the return to school has seen an improvement in moods, self esteem and sell efficacy in our children.

The risk to children and young people themselves of becoming severely ill from coronavirus (COVID-19) is very low and there are negative health impacts of being out of school or college. We know that education settings are a vital point of contact for public health and safeguarding services that are critical to the wellbeing of children, young people and families.

A child or young person’s time spent in education is key to their preparation for adulthood. This affects the standard of living that today’s pupils and students will have over the course of their entire life. For many households, the closure of education settings has also affected their parents ability to work.

In relation to working in education settings, whilst it is not possible to ensure a totally risk-free environment, the Office for National Statistics analysis on coronavirus (COVID-19), UK related deaths linked to occupations, suggests that staff in educational settings tend not to be at any greater risk from the disease than many other occupations. There is no evidence that children transmit the disease any more than adults. The MAP observers that contrary to adults children are much better at adapting than adults and have been much better at following public health guidance such as keeping their masks on all day, sanitising regularly and social distancing at school.

Given the improved position, the balance of risk is now overwhelmingly in favour of children and young people returning to school or college. The Chief Medical Officers and Deputy Chief Medical Officers of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales recently set out the evidence of risks and benefits to health from schools opening, concluding that the risk of long-term harm from coronavirus (COVID-19) due solely to attending school is low while the risk of long-term harm from not attending school is high. Therefore for the vast majority of children and young people, the benefits of being back in an education setting far outweigh the very low risk from coronavirus (COVID-19).

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