Parents SHOULD take their kids out of school if they are concerned about coronavirus and shouldn’t be slammed for ‘panicking’, expert claims
- Health expert said parents should feel justified in removing children from school
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared schools would stay open on Wednesday
- Decision comes despite number of cases in Australia growing to more than 700
- Expert opinion has been split, with some saying evidence on closures is mixed
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Parents should not be criticised for taking their children out of school despite Prime Minister Scott Morrison declaring they will stay open, an expert has claimed.
Mr Morrison on Wednesday vowed not to close schools and also intervened this week to ensure 600 Catholic schools in New South Wales stayed open.
However, expert opinion on the issue is divided and senior University of Sydney health professor Claire Hooker claims it’s perfectly reasonable for parents to take their children out of school.
‘Some will feel especially concerned to protect vulnerable family members,’ Dr Hooker told ABC News.
Schoolchildren are pictured in uniform outside Strathfield South Public School in Sydney on Friday
Three women wearing face masks use their mobile phones during a work break in Neutral Bay on March 18
‘Their decisions are reasonable and valid; many people prefer more conservative strategies while the evidence is uncertain and conflicting.’
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has said pre-emptive closures of schools are not proportionate with the spread of the coronavirus.
But Dr Hooker pointed to research by Imperial College London which suggested school and university closures could stem the pandemic.
Pictured: University of Sydney health professor Claire Hooker. She said it was reasonable for parents to want to withdraw their children from school due to the coronavirus
Dr Hooker said teachers’ concerns about the spread of coronavirus were also valid and many feel like they are being treated as an ‘expendable resource’.
‘While at present the risk to teachers in Australia is low, it is also reasonable that teachers feel concerned right now. Teachers may feel more able to manage hygiene practices at school with a smaller staff-student ratio,’ she said.
There is not a consensus among academics about whether children should be taken out of schools and many disagree with Dr Hooker’s views.
Professor Allen Cheng from Monash University, who is an expert in infectious diseases, said children should be taken out of school if they are sick.
There have been 756 infections in Australia and seven deaths since the coronavirus outbreak began
But he added he doubted his ability to give his children the same quality of education their teachers can provide.
Professor of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology at Australian National University Peter Collignon added there was always a risk of infection whether children went to school or not.
Those under the age of 40 have a low risk of death from the disease, Professor Collignon said.
Lecturer Paul Kidson, a lecturer in educational leadership at the University of Wollongong, meanwhile argued parents should think carefully about pulling their children out of school.
Professor Kidson said age was an important factor and secondary school students might suffer more in their education from being withdrawn than younger pupils.
It comes as the United Kingdom closed schools, colleges and nurseries until further notice.
Only children of ‘keyworkers’ like health service staff will continue to go to school beyond Friday.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the UK sits at more than 3,200 – more than four times the 756 infections in Australia.