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Education Secretary and local authorities threatened with legal challenge over approach to vulnerable children and school attendance

The Good Law Project (GLP) has written to the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, threatening legal action if he fails to issue guidance that protects vulnerable children and families as schools reopen.

It said it would 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.”

The GLP’s move comes after it commissioned legal advice from Fiona Scolding QC and Yaaser Vanderman of Landmark Chambers.

The legal advice says that (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. 

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The GLP said: “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. 

“Even children and families with serious medical conditions that make them especially vulnerable to Covid are expected to return to school  – without any protective measures. Government’s policy requires no contact tracing by schools, no bubbles, and tells families who are vulnerable to just ‘follow the same guidance as everyone else’.” 

The GLP said parents faced fines or prosecution if they keep their children at home until schools are made safe. “And some schools and local authorities are bullying families into deregistering children,” it claimed.

So far it has raised more than £7,000 towards a target of £30,000 via Crowd Justice.

The GLP said: “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.”

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