Legal Action – Children Without the Tools to Succeed

Schools remain closed to the vast number of pupils and curricula have been suspended as a result. With all crises, it is the most vulnerable of our pupils who are at risk of having their education impacted the most. Home learning is a monumental task being undertaken by schools currently, but what happens if you are from a lower-income family who don’t have access to a computer and reliable broadband access?

This report (from the EEF 2019) shows an attainment penalty associated with the lack of these resources and this is while all pupils were in schools. This attainment penalty is compounded by the intersectional nature of the results which suggest a linear penalty. Anyway, a fuller analysis can be found here.



The Good Law Project has launched a legal campaign to tackle this issue. They’ve written to Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education, to ask him (1) what advice he plans to give to local authorities about educational provision for the estimated 1 million children unable to access online education during the lockdown (see IPPR report here) and (2) what funds he proposes to make available to local authorities to support their provision of tablets or computers and internet access to those children. In the absence of an adequate response (which was due yesterday), they have said they plan to issue urgent judicial review proceedings.At the same time, the Good Law Project is supporting families who are struggling to access these resources to launch legal action against their local authority. Section 19 of the Education Act 1996 requires local authorities to provide a suitable education for children whether inside or outside of schools. Please note this responsibility is regardless of whether the school they attend is an academy or not – the local authority is responsible. As I understand it, this is not an attack on local authorities – as a former senior leader we all know that local authorities have been operating on slashed budgets – but instead the aim of this work is to further pressure the Government to provide the funding required to support children across the country. A coherent and consistent policy response is essential to avoid a postcode lottery. Given the deadline for the SoS to respond was yesterday, I am expecting further clarification on the legal actions soon, and of course, I’ll update you when I can.

UPDATE: DfE have Responded

The has just announced (here) that the Department for Education has announced that

“Disadvantaged children across England are set to receive laptops and tablets as part of a push to make remote education accessible for pupils staying at home during the coronavirus outbreak.

Devices will be ordered for children in the most vital stages of their education, those who receive support from a social worker and care leavers.

The government will also provide 4G routers to make sure disadvantaged secondary school pupils and care leavers can access the internet – where those families do not already have mobile or broadband internet in the household.”

“There is no current definition of the term disadvantaged, However in this article,

“The Tes understands that the scheme will target children on free school meals, but there will be a degree of flexibility in who is eligible.”

Until further details about who specifically will benefit from the scheme, I suspect the fight is not over. Our most disadvantaged pupils deserve the same life opportunities as out most affluent; Yes, this may seem like I am asking for more and more; We must remember but this is the law and it is in place for a reason. 

Where to now? This thread is from J Maugham.


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