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 delay, so we have 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 into 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 is working with three families who are our co-claimants in the proposed legal action:
Allison* is a mother whose 14-year-old son is clinically extremely vulnerable. His second vaccine dose is scheduled for December. Her other son is 10 years old, too young to be vaccinated. But his 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, his school has 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.
Claire* 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. Claire is now infected herself, as is her other daughter. All of this could have been avoided if the school had been flexible.
Danielle* is immunosuppressed and awaiting her booster jab. Her 13-year-old daughter is extremely anxious about bringing COVID-19 home before she is fully protected – she wants to wait until both she and her mother are fully vaccinated before going back to school but have been told that further delay will lead to fines and/or prosecution. Danielle 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.
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*All names have been anonymised.