United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned parents in England that they may be fined if they keep kids home from school, The Guardian reported.
The U.K., like the U.S., is divided on whether or not to send children back to school while the coronavirus pandemic rages. While the school year in the States is getting up and running, England has another week to sort things out, as their school year — along with that of Wales — traditionally doesn’t start until September. Meanwhile, Scotland and Northern Ireland have already resumed school.
Johnson, like his American counterpart Donald Trump, is bullish on getting kids back into the classroom for in-person instruction.
“Nothing will have a greater effect on the life chances of our children than returning to school,” he said, via BBC News.
Johnson added that he believes the best way to address the mental health problems experienced by kids who have been in lockdown for the past five months is to get them back into the classroom.
For now, English schools are planning to bring the kids back into the buildings for in-person instruction, rather than remote learning. Further, the institutions will have strict protocols in place to keep the virus at bay. Some of those measures include keeping students in “bubble zones” that keep them in contact with only a handful of other children; installing handwashing stations; and students having their own designated keyboards, among others.
Similarly, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Dr. Jenny Harries said that children are more at risk from the seasonal flu than they are from COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb noted that in the United Kingdom, school attendance is mandatory and that parents who keep kids at home — even if out of fear of the coronavirus — would be breaking the law.
“We live in a country where education is compulsory and I think parents can be reassured that the measures that schools are taking to make sure that we minimize the risk of the transmission of the virus are very effective,” he said.
And if people break the law by keeping their kids home, they could be fined, according to the Johnson administration. However, he also noted that the fines — £60 (about $78.44) for unauthorized absences — should be seen as a last resort.
It’s an opinion echoed by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, who suggested that the first order of business should be to try to work something out with the parents.
“We would ask all schools to work with those parents, encourage them to bring their children back, deal with concerns that they have and fining would be very much the last resort,” he said.