Parents who do not send their children back to school risk “greatly compromising their chances in future life,” the education secretary warned.
Millions of students in England and Wales are returning to class this week.
Gavin Williamson insisted in an open letter that schools are safe.
It comes after teachers criticized the government for posting “last minute” advice on Friday evening detailing what to do during virus outbreaks and local lockdowns.
“If a child is not in school, he risks losing much more than a few months of learning. It may well jeopardize their future chances in life, ”said Williamson in his open letter to parents.
“Education is a birthright, so let’s make sure we get all children back – back to learning, playing and being children again. ”
Mr Williamson said it was “generally accepted” that the health and well-being of children is at greater risk if they do not go to school.
He cited a joint statement from the UK’s chief medical officers, who said “very few, if any” children and adolescents would experience long-term harm from Covid-19 just by attending school.
The letter came out just as the government came under criticism for when its guidelines were sent to schools in England, just days before most children started term.
According to the guidelines, in local lockdowns high school students could be kept home every fortnight and, in the event of an outbreak, large groups could be told to self-isolate.
While not responding to criticism from teachers in his open letter, Mr Williamson reassured parents that the health risk posed to children by Covid-19 was “extremely low”.
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He said “considerable effort” had been made to prepare schools for the return of pupils, including children placed in groups – or “bubbles” and the wearing of face masks in common areas of closed schools.
He said the “priority” was the return of the children. “It really is the best place for them,” he added.
Schools in Scotland and Northern Ireland have already been allowed to reopen.
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