Lack of access to high-quality digital education for the poorest children means schools will need to reopen, a scientist has said.
Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of Sage, said that decisive action was needed to prevent a "catastrophe" in January and February caused by rising Covid infections driven by the new variant of the virus.
Asked what impact schools opening would have on the spread of the virus, he said: "From a purely epidemiological point of view it makes a lot of sense to keep schools closed for longer and introduce more stringent testing.
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"Unfortunately, what we failed to do is address the digital divide among school children, such that the opportunity to provide high-quality online education for the poorest parts of the community is being lost.
"We are going to have to get schools back, maybe a little bit later, but we are going to have increased strict restrictions in other areas of society to pay for that."
Speaking on the same programme earlier this morning, the founder of the Oasis Academy Trust Steve Chalke made a similar comment on how the digital divide means school closures will deepen inequalities.
"We believe it’s vital to keep education open and keep education continuous because school closure will further undermine equality and will advantage the advantaged, those with parental support and access to good computers, rather than broken phones, and good broadband and reinforce the structural inequality we’ll all end up paying for - socially and economically - for years," he said. "And some kids will pay with their lives and opportunity."