Can I keep my child off school?

Schools: GP details case for keeping children at home

Pressure is mounting on the Government to close schools and keep children learning from home when the new term starts amid fears over rising Covid-19 cases. The latest data showed the UK has seen 50,000 or more cases five days in a row, and parents say they are fearful about sending their children back to school if the rate of infection continues to rise.

Teachers, too, are worried abut the rising cases, with many saying keeping schools open puts them and their students at risk.

One teacher told “We can’t see our families but I’m told to go into school and teach a class of 30 children – it doesn’t make any sense.

“Teachers have not been included on the vaccine list yet we’re apparently key workers too.

“Unless that changes, reopening schools is unsafe – mass testing is not enough.”

READ MORE: School closures: GP warns children at risk if schools remain open

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Teaching unions say all schools should close for the next two weeks, with General secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) Mary Bousted saying this would help to “break the chain” of transmission and prevent the NHS becoming overwhelmed.”

The NEU, which represents the majority of teachers, has advised members it is not safe to return to classrooms on Monday.

While NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said the union had started preliminary steps in legal proceedings against the Department for Education, asking it to share its scientific data about safety and transmission rates.

However, the Government is adamant that the reopening of schools is of utmost importance.

Boris Johnson has today said parents should send children back to primary school tomorrow “in areas where schools are open”.

He told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show “there is no doubt in my mind that schools are safe”.

The Prime Minister added: “What we are doing, clearly, is grappling with a new variant of coronavirus which is surging particularly in London and the South East.

“And that is why we have had to take exceptional measures.”

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Gavin Williamson confirmed all London primary schools will remain shut to most pupils next week.

However those not in London must reopen as planned, he warned.

The Department for Education said remote learning was “a last resort” and classrooms should reopen “wherever possible” with appropriate safety measures to help mitigate the risk of transmission.

A spokesman said: “As we’ve said, we will move to remote education as a last resort, with involvement of public health officials, in areas where infection and pressures on the NHS are highest.”

Can I keep my child off school?

According to government advice, your child can only miss school if:

  • they’re too ill to go in
  • you’ve got advance permission from the school

You can be given a fine if you do not send your child to school, which starts at £60 for each parent and rises to £120 if it is not paid within 21 days.

If the fine remains unpaid after 28 days, you may be prosecuted – which could see a fine of up to £2,500, a community order or a jail sentence up to 3 months.

Local councils and schools can also use various legal powers, including giving you:

  • a Parenting Order
  • an Education Supervision Order
  • a School Attendance Order

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