Boris Johnson: Dame Rachel de Souza urges Prime Minister not to close schools

The Children’s Commissioner for England said children 'took a huge hit for us' in previous coronavirus lockdowns'.

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The Children’s Commissioner for England said she would urge the Prime Minister “not to close schools” following the emergence of the Omicron variant.

Dame Rachel de Souza said children “took a huge hit for us” in previous coronavirus lockdowns, adding that on possible future school closures she would advise Boris Johnson “not to do this, if there is any other option”.

Speaking about how lockdown had “weakened the system of support”, she said: “It was a terrible time for the whole nation, it’s also why I think we must not close schools again, we must not.”

She added: “I would urge him (Prime Minister) not to close schools… They (children) want things back to normal, they took a huge hit for us.

“We must not close schools again, and my headteacher colleagues across the country are incredibly good at managing this situation.

“I watched them rush in to support the most vulnerable and I would definitely advise not to do this, if there is any other option.”

She went on: “We can’t let them down, as long as we can keep them safe – and nothing is ever 100% safe – we need schools open.”

Asked why 208,000 children were not at school, Dame Rachel said: “Normally around this sort of time you’d have 94% of children in school in a normal year, we’re now about at high 80s, so most children are in school, most children want to be in school… some of it is Covid, some of it are other reasons.”

Dame Rachel added: “Take your tests and get into school and encourage children to get into school, it’s the best place for them and frankly it’s what they’ve told me it’s what they want, it’s where they want to be.”

She was also asked on The Andrew Marr Show about vaccinating five to 11-year-olds, she said: “I’m looking forward to seeing what JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) say.

“What I would say, two things: One is children have told me anecdotally as I went around the country that they would like the vaccine because they want to support their older relatives.

“This an altruistic nation, young generation, we need to be very grateful to them, but also a number of countries have gone ahead of us and we can see the scientific outcomes of that.

“So my view is very much if JCVI say yes, let’s do (it), let’s let children who want it, have it.”