children sitting on brown chairs inside the classroom
Photo by Arthur Krijgsman on

This is very sad news from the United Kingdom:

Schools in England will not be able to open after the half-term break next month but could begin to return from 8 March, the prime minister has said.

Boris Johnson said a final decision would depend on meeting vaccination targets and schools would get two weeks’ notice.

Covid-19: England’s schools will not reopen before March

Those decisions have no good options: open schools (with the risk of disease transmission and all that entails) or close schools (with the risk of harming the intellectual and emotional development of our children and all that entails).

I imagine that a big part of social science in the 2020s will be about measuring the costs (and benefits) of lockdowns and the various decisions of 2020-2021. Effectively ruining our children’s brains by not sending them to school will likely have devastating effects, and I certainly have no way of measuring today what those harms will be. Many of the consequences probably won’t even be detectable until the 2030s or 2040s.

Some harms of closing schools are already detectable across in the United States:

Places like Australia, or New Zealand, or the Isle of Man, where schools have been open much more, will be valuable data-points to compare and contrast the effects of different policies across the world.