Keep children, families, and teachers safe

by Good Law Project

Keep children, families, and teachers safe

by Good Law Project
Good Law Project
Case Owner
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.
14
days to go
£27,400
pledged of £50,000 stretch target from 1,285 pledges
Pledge now
Good Law Project
Case Owner
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.
Pledge now

This case is raising funds for its stretch target. Your pledge will be collected within the next 24-48 hours (and it only takes two minutes to pledge!)

Latest: Oct. 12, 2021

Schools must support clinically vulnerable families

We have some great news this evening: the Secretary of State has, at last, conceded that schools need to be sensitive to families’ particular needs when considering requests for absence due to …

Read more

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.

Recent contributions

Be a promoter

Your share on Facebook could raise £26 for the case

I'll share on Facebook
Update 4

Good Law Project

Oct. 12, 2021

Schools must support clinically vulnerable families

We have some great news this evening: the Secretary of State has, at last, conceded that schools need to be sensitive to families’ particular needs when considering requests for absence due to Covid.

In an email update to all early years, children’s social care, schools and further education providers this afternoon, he said:

We know many schools have, until now, understood that the Education Secretary’s guidance meant they could only authorise Covid-related absences if a child tests positive for Covid-19.

They should now be in no doubt that such a narrow interpretation is unlawful.

Like the Secretary of State, we believe that attending school is important for the education, well-being and long-term development of most students. But for some families who have clinically extremely vulnerable members, that is simply not possible.

To help explain the Education Secretary’s new guidance, we will soon publish a briefing note, which we hope will help both schools and parents. Schools will need to consider requests for absence fairly and sympathetically, taking into account their legal duties under the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998.

This is a big win for clinically extremely vulnerable families, but it is only the first step. Our work will now turn to making sure that schools approve reasonable requests for leave, and provide full remote education for children who cannot go into school.

Schools and local authorities should be in no doubt that we will continue to work with our legal team – Fiona Scolding QC, Yaaser Vanderman and leading education law solicitors Simpson Millar – to support individual challenges to schools that fail to live up to their legal duties.

Thank you for your support.

Update 3

Good Law Project

Oct. 1, 2021

Important update

After originally saying it needed until 24 September to respond to our lawyers' letter, Government told us that it needed even more time (until 6 October). We think the matter is too urgent to delay, so we have now sent a formal Pre-action Protocol letter to the Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi.

All we are asking him to do is explain to schools and local authorities that children who are vulnerable, or who have vulnerable people living in their household, should not be forced in to school while it represents a serious risk. (And thanks to the lack of mitigation measures in place, schools currently represent an extremely serious risk for unvaccinated children - Chris Whitty has said it is "inevitable" they will become infected.)

Good Law Project has three co-claimants in the proposed legal action:

Claimant 2 is a mother whose 14 year-old son (S) is clinically extremely vulnerable. His second vaccine dose is scheduled for December. Her other son (R) is 10 years-old, too young to be vaccinated. But R's school insisted he had to attend and refused to provide remote education - despite the risk to his brother. Eventually she felt she had no choice but to deregister him. After weeks of fighting, R's school have now agreed to make concessions - but his mother doesn't think she (or anyone else) should have to fight so hard to protect their family.

Claimant 3 is a clinically extremely vulnerable mother who is awaiting her booster jab. Her 12 year-old son is also vulnerable due to severe asthma; he recently became eligible for vaccination, and she wanted to keep him at home until he was fully protected. However, his school refused to compromise, and she felt she had no choice but to send him back. Within 11 days her son had contracted COVID-19. He became seriously unwell and narrowly avoided hospitalisation. Claimant 3 is now infected herself, as is her other daughter. All of this could have been avoided if the school had been flexible.

Claimant 4 is immunosuppressed and awaiting her booster jab. Her 13 year-old daughter is extremely anxious about bringing COVID-19 home before her mother is fully protected; she wants to wait until both she and her mother are fully vaccinated before going back. But it has been made clear to Claimant 4 that further delay will lead to fines and/or prosecution. She does not want to deregister her daughter from a school she loves, but feels she may have no other choice.

We have heard from dozens of families facing similar heartbreaking decisions. All of this could be avoided if Government issued guidance explaining that schools and local authorities should be flexible about authorising absences and providing remote education, instead of insisting on attendance at all costs.

We hope to have a positive update soon. Thank you for your support.

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.

    There are no public comments on this case page.