Keep children, families, and teachers safe

by Good Law Project

Keep children, families, and teachers safe

by Good Law Project
Good Law Project
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Good Law Project's mission is to achieve change through the law. We uphold democracy, protect the environment, and ensure no one is left behind.
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Latest: Sept. 21, 2021

Update on our action against the Education Secretary

In light of the change in personnel in the Department for Education, where Nadhim Zahawi has now replaced Gavin Williamson as Education Secretary, Government has said it needs until the end of this w…

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Schools are reopening and Government wants to pretend Covid is fixed. But this stance puts the lives of children, their families, and teaching staff at risk. 

On 19 August, Government wrote to families once classed as especially vulnerable to Covid to say it no longer considers them vulnerable and telling them to attend school - despite the absence of adequate, and in many cases any, protection for them. 

Schools might well now be the least safe institution in the country. Alone, we believe, they do no contact tracing. Face mask use is discouraged. The Government’s own expert advisors, SAGE, consider it “highly likely” that there will be “exponential increases” of Covid in school-age children when schools reopen. And the world’s largest study has found that as many as one in seven children who get Covid will suffer long Covid. 

This poses serious questions for every family in the country with school-age children. But the consequences are especially severe for vulnerable families. They face an impossible choice.

Parents who are frightened of what this means for their kids or vulnerable family members face fines or prosecution if they keep their kids at home until schools are made safe. And schools or local authorities, worried about attendance figures, can bully vulnerable families into deregistering children. The only way out for families is to risk the health of children.

We don’t think this state of affairs is lawful - and it is certainly not right.

We will write to Gavin Williamson, the Minister, asking him to issue guidance that protects vulnerable children and families. We will make the same request of a sample of local authorities and schools. If those letters do not draw adequate responses we will begin court proceedings to ensure compliance with the law.

We have no magic wand that can make the problems go away. Plainly we want children back in school. But the transition to a world with Covid is complex. It will take time and sensitivity. And what we want in the meantime is for Governments, local authorities and schools to support the reasonable assessments of loving families of what is in the interests of their children and other vulnerable family members.

What cannot happen - but what Government seems determined should happen - is that we pretend we live in a world without Covid. We won’t allow the health of vulnerable families to be sacrificed on the altar of politics.

The details:

Good Law Project has commissioned written legal advice from leading educational specialists Fiona Scolding QC and Yaaser Vanderman. The advice says (1) fines or prosecutions for not attending school could - depending on the facts - be unlawful; and (2) vulnerable children or children who belong to vulnerable families may have a legal right to be provided with an education at home. We are publishing that advice here.

The cases we bring will adhere to the principles set out in that advice. The solicitors in the case will be Simpson Millar whom Good Law Project instructed in its successful action to protect A-Level students. We will obviously keep you closely informed. 

We also want to express our thanks to the grassroots organisations that support us, and whom we support, in this work including ShieldUs, The Hive, Clinically Vulnerable Families, The Vulnerable and Shielding Network, One Voice, Safe Ed for All, Parents United and Long Covid Kids.

10% of the sums raised will go to the Good Law Project to help it develop and support further litigation in the public interest. It is our policy only to raise sums that we reasonably anticipate could be spent on this litigation. However, if there is a surplus it will go to support and enable other litigation we bring.

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Update 2

Good Law Project

Sept. 21, 2021

Update on our action against the Education Secretary

In light of the change in personnel in the Department for Education, where Nadhim Zahawi has now replaced Gavin Williamson as Education Secretary, Government has said it needs until the end of this week (Friday 24th September) to respond to our lawyers' letter. We have agreed to that extension and have reiterated the kind of changes that need to be made to the official guidance to protect vulnerable families.

We are cautiously hopeful that Mr Zahawi will do the right thing and resolve the situation urgently.

A further update will follow as soon as we have Government's response - thank you for your continued support.

Update 1

Good Law Project

Sept. 10, 2021

Our challenge to Gavin Williamson over unlawful school guidance

Our lawyers have written to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson today, asking him to urgently clarify school attendance guidance so that it considers the needs of vulnerable families - and threatening formal legal proceedings if he does not. 

The Government’s new rules and lack of Covid protections in schools place parents from clinically vulnerable families in an impossible position: either they risk prosecution by keeping their kids at home to protect their family’s health, or risk loved ones’ lives by sending their children to school. 

This is urgent. We are already aware of at least one case in which an immunosuppressed parent was criminally prosecuted for their child’s absence from school. Other parents tell us they’ve been bullied into deregistering their child by schools worried about attendance figures, leaving their child without formal education and causing enormous strain to family life.

We believe the Government’s stance puts lives at risk and is unlawful

We want schools, local authorities and Government to stop the bullying, stop the threats of fines and prosecutions, and show some basic compassion by taking this on a case-by-case basis.

We are asking the Government to update the guidance to ensure that schools are aware that absences of children from vulnerable households can be recognised as authorised, and that they should provide remote learning where needed for vulnerable families.

This is no time for politics. 

Vulnerable children or family members are going to die, unnecessarily, if the Government carries on pretending in the face of all the evidence that the pandemic is over.

If you are in a position to do so, you can donate to the legal action here.  

We are grateful to the grass-roots organisations that support us, and whom we support, in this work including ShieldUs, The Hive, Clinically Vulnerable Families, The Vulnerable and Shielding Network, One Voice, Safe Ed for All, Parents United, and Long Covid Kids.

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