Ministers threaten legal action against schools if they try to close early before Christmas

Ministers threatened to take legal action against schools last night amid fears that many will close early to reduce the spread of coronavirus among teenagers before Christmas

At least one council has already told some of its schools it would allow them to switch to online learning for the last week of term. 

Secondary schools in London and the South East are also expected to tell parents they will be closing early for the holidays.

And some headteachers at schools which do stay open intend to turn a blind eye if children are kept at home by parents. 

But senior sources at the Department for Education warned schools and councils it could apply for High Court injunctions which would force them to stay open, according to The Telegraph.   

Ministers threatened to take legal action against schools last night amid fears that many will close early to reduce the spread of coronavirus among teenagers before Christmas

Ministers threatened to take legal action against schools last night amid fears that many will close early to reduce the spread of coronavirus among teenagers before Christmas

Ministers threatened to take legal action against schools last night amid fears that many will close early to reduce the spread of coronavirus among teenagers before Christmas

The newspaper reported how Presdales School, an academy in Hertfordshire, is the first school in the country which has been told it could face legal action over its plans to switch to remote learning in the last part of term.  

The school was reportedly was sent a ‘minded to direct’ letter from the DfE which warned it that unless it backed down it would face legal action.

The Government are also said to be in contact with Essay County Council bosses to try to persuade them to drop plans to support headteachers in Basildon who want to move to remote learning before term ends. 

However, The Telegraph added that parents who fail to send their children to school next week are unlikely to be fined. 

It gives the green light for thousands of children to stay at home when they should be in the classroom.

The law says that children should only miss school if they are ill or if they have advance permission from heads. 

Technically parents can be slapped with £60 fines if their children miss school for no good reason. It doubles to £120 if not paid within 21 days. 

If after 28 days parents still have not paid, they face prosecution.  

Senior sources at the Department for Education warned schools and councils it could apply for High Court injunctions which would force them to stay open. Pictured: Education Secretary Gavin Williamson

Senior sources at the Department for Education warned schools and councils it could apply for High Court injunctions which would force them to stay open. Pictured: Education Secretary Gavin Williamson

Senior sources at the Department for Education warned schools and councils it could apply for High Court injunctions which would force them to stay open. Pictured: Education Secretary Gavin Williamson

Downing Street has previously insisted it is a ‘national priority’ to keep schools open. 

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson was handed powers under the Coronavirus to force schools to stay open by overriding headteachers and governing bodies.  

Presdale School has since confirmed it will remain open for all children until next Friday.    

The news of the potential legal action comes as mass coronavirus testing is being   rolled out in secondary schools in coronavirus hotspots in North East London, South Essex and Kent from today. 

Official data showed pupils aged 11 to 18 were fuelling the winter surge of infections in the capital and South East England. 

Some headteachers at schools which do stay open intend to turn a blind eye if children are kept at home by parents

Some headteachers at schools which do stay open intend to turn a blind eye if children are kept at home by parents

Some headteachers at schools which do stay open intend to turn a blind eye if children are kept at home by parents

Presdales School (pictured), an academy in Hertfordshire, is the first school in the country which has been told it could face legal action over its plans to switch to remote learning in the last part of term

Presdales School (pictured), an academy in Hertfordshire, is the first school in the country which has been told it could face legal action over its plans to switch to remote learning in the last part of term

Presdales School (pictured), an academy in Hertfordshire, is the first school in the country which has been told it could face legal action over its plans to switch to remote learning in the last part of term

The Department of Health said ‘hundreds of thousands’ of swabbing kits are being sent to the existing testing hubs, as well as 37 additional mobile units being set up.  

Fifteen 15 extra mobile testing sites were sent to London starting on Friday  and over the weekend, with an additional 12 in Kent and 10 in Essex, to bolster capacity.

The seven London boroughs involved in the scheme are Barking and Dagenham, Hackney, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.

Covid infections are falling in most age groups but transmission is high in secondary school and college aged pupils.

As long as it remains high in these groups there remains a risk children will pass the disease to their parents and the virus will race through the population. 

However, Geoff Barton, the general secretary at the Association of School and College Leaders, told The Telegraph that the news of the mass testing regime may have scared parents into keeping their children at home. 

He said the regime may have ‘the unintended consequence of spooking everyone’.

Mr Barton added that parents would ‘vote with their feet’ by deciding they do not want the risk of their kids being in school.   

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