SCHOOLS should be the last places to close in future lockdowns, the children's commissioner has said.

Anne Longfield says children have a right to education and, must not be an "afterthought", and that schools should be "first to open, last to close".

She says children play a smaller role in spreading Covid-19 than adults and are less likely to get ill from it.

The government says getting children back to school is a national priority.

Councillor Marcus Hart, cabinet member for education and skills at Worcestershire County Council, said the council's biggest priority in prepartion for children returning in September was safety and the council was proud of higher-than-average attendances during the phased re-opening of schools.

“The highest priority and consideration is the safety and wellbeing of Worcestershire’s children, young people, families and staff," he said.

"We’re really proud of how the majority of schools remained open for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children as well as supporting virtual learning for pupils during lockdown."

The children's commissioner said reducing transmission of coronavirus was important in communities but it should not be automatically assumed that schools close except as a last resort.

"Attendance at schools across Worcestershire following the phased re-opening for children was consistently above the national average and now we are looking forward to all children returning to school in September," Cllr Hart added.

"We remain in regular contact with all of our schools and the Department for Education ahead of the new term starting in September.

"We have emphasised that our approach is rooted in doing the right thing for children, families and schools, ensuring that our schools are safe for children and staff to return to.

“Preparations are well underway to support our schools and settings to reopen in September.

"These include looking at maximising space to allow safe movement, providing advice and guidance on health and safety measures, ensuring we can do all we can to support children’s emotional well-being as they return and engage them appropriately in a return to learning with the right support in place."