Keep children, families, and teachers safe

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.

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.

Good Law Project has commissioned written legal advice from leading educational specialists Fiona Scolding QC and Yaaser Vanderman. The advice is available 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. These cases will be crowdfunded.

If you are in a position to donate to support the legal actions, you can do so here:

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.

Previous Updates

Legal advice: Government can’t ban the use of facemasks in schools

Last week, the Government changed its guidance to say that face masks would no longer be necessary in schools. The media has reported that, in unpublished correspondence with MPs, Nadhim Zahawi, the Education Secretary, has…

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Update: Solihull Council agrees not to prosecute Covid-vulnerable family

Back in November, we told you about a Covid-vulnerable family living in Solihull, in the West Midlands. Mum-of-three Mrs Brooks lives with a serious medical condition and takes immunosuppressant drugs to treat it, while her…

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Update: Education Secretary (finally) tells schools how to treat absences for clinically vulnerable children

After repeated pushes and further threats of legal action, the Education Secretary has confirmed to schools that his hardline approach to attendance does not prevent them from authorising absences for children from clinically vulnerable families.

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Update: Education Secretary says absences for clinically vulnerable children are allowed

Earlier this week, we wrote to Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi about the mixed messages he’s been giving schools about whether clinically vulnerable children are allowed to learn from home while Covid-19 rages on. In the…

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Clinically vulnerable families: Government is giving mixed messages about school absence

With a barrage of mixed messages from Government, it’s no wonder that clinically vulnerable families who wish to keep their children home from school until they are better protected from Covid are still facing obstacles.  

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Some councils aren’t listening – we’re taking action

Last month, the Secretary of State for Education conceded that schools could authorise Covid-related absences for pupils who are particularly clinically vulnerable, or who have vulnerable family members – contrary to what Government guidance suggested. 

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Vulnerable families and school attendance – where are we now?

Guest advice blog by Dan Rosenberg, Partner at Simpson Millar
As children returned to school in September, I acted for Good Law Project and three individual co-claimants in proposed proceedings against the Education Secretary regarding families…

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School attendance and clinically vulnerable families – a guide for parents and schools

Earlier this week, the Education Secretary sent out new guidance which conceded that schools need to be sensitive to families’ needs when considering absence due to Covid. This is a big win for clinically extremely…

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Education Secretary’s new guidance means 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…

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They agree with our legal analysis

We have now received a response from the Government. The good news is that the Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, has agreed with our legal analysis, and confirmed that the provision which allows schools to authorise…

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This is too urgent to delay

After originally saying it needed until 24 September to respond to our lawyers’ letter, Government told us that it needed even more time (until tomorrow, 6 October). We think the matter is too urgent to…

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“He was almost hospitalised”

Amanda* is clinically extremely vulnerable. Her 12 year-old son has severe asthma. She wanted to keep him off school until he had received his COVID-19 vaccination. But when his school refused to compromise, she had…

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NEW: Our challenge to Gavin Williamson over unlawful school guidance for Covid-vulnerable families

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…

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