Journal article Open Access

School closure in response to epidemic outbreaks: Systems-based logic model of downstream impacts

Dylan Kneale; Alison O'Mara-Eves; Rebecca Rees; James Thomas

Draft abstract:

Background: The closure of schools has been a recommended non-pharmaceutical intervention in response to pandemics because of its potential for reducing the transmission of infection between children, school staff and those that they contact. However, given the many roles that schools play in society, school closure for any extended period is likely to have additional impacts. Literature reviews of research exploring school closure to date appear to have focused upon epidemiological effects and there is an unmet need for research that considers the multiplicity of potential impacts of school closures.

Methods: We used systematic searching, coding and synthesis techniques to develop a systems-based logic model. We included literature related to school closure planned in response to epidemics large and small, spanning the 1918-19 ‘flu pandemic through to the emerging literature on the 2019 novel coronavirus. We used over 170 research studies and a number of policy documents to arrive at our model.

Results: The model organises the concepts used by authors in this literature into seven higher level domains: children’s health and wellbeing, children’s education, impacts on teachers and other school staff, the school organisation, considerations for parents and families, public health considerations, and broader economic impacts. The model also collates ideas about potential moderating factors and ethical considerations. While clearly dependent upon the nature of epidemics experienced to date, we aim for the model to provide a starting point for theorising about school closures in general, and as part of a wider system that is influenced by many contextual and population factors.

Conclusions: The model highlights that the impacts of school closures are much broader than those related solely to health, and demonstrates that there is a need for further concerted work in this area. The publication of this logic model should help the framing of future research in this area as well as aid decision-makers when considering future school closure policy and possible mitigation strategies.

These are supplementary files to complement the journal article published in F1000 Research
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