Earlier this year I wrote a blog post here titled, ‘Re-socialising a vaccinated world requires political struggle‘. I am pleased to draw attention to one small success in such a struggle, which in this case is to make it much more difficult than it currently is for the Government to close schools by fiat because of the pandemic. The harm to children, especially those from less wealthy or otherwise advantaged homes, that school closures have wrought over the last two years is immense. It is to the shame of the Labour Party, the political tribe to which I belong, that they have not spoken out on behalf of such children.
I reproduce below the announcement from the UsForThem pressure group which has brought about the successful first reading in Parliament of this Bill.
|Wow, what a week! On Wednesday a new Bill to prevent future school closures was given its first reading in Parliament, with UsforThem thanked in the House of Commons for our work and support.|
This was a milestone moment for the UsforThem campaign.
It has been a long road already. UsforThem first called for schools to be classed as ‘Critical Infrastructure’ in July 2020, with an open letter signed by professionals, academics and parents. (Read article)
The evidence then, which has gathered weight since, supports what we, as parents and carers, instinctively know to be true – schools are essential for children.
On Wednesday, more than 15 months later, the Chair of the Education Select Committee, Robert Halfon, presented a Bill to recognise and define educational settings as essential infrastructure and put a triple lock in place to stop them being closed without due scrutiny. This Bill would mean that any proposal to close schools would have to meet the following criteria: weigh the risks and benefits for children gain approval of the Children’s Commissioner be put to a vote in Parliament, separate to any other vote and, if schools did close, the policy would have to be reviewed every three weeks We are delighted to say the Bill passed its first Parliamentary hurdle! It has made it to its second reading, which is scheduled for the 4th February. Thank you to everyone who took part in this week’s urgent call to action – the weight of our voices had a terrific impact!
The process for a Bill to become law, especially a Private Bill, is long and difficult. Following the first reading there will be a second reading, a review by committee, a third hearing, before the Bill is referred to the House of Lords and, finally, gains Royal Assent. (View process). However, we are thankful that it is now in the system and grateful to every UsforThem supporter who has played their part in this initial success.
We believe that if something is not impossible then it must be possible. So, please be assured that UsforThem will be working hard, with your continued support, to drive the Bill through to the second reading.
You’ll hear lots more from us on this. Watch this space…!
Many MPs supported the Bill and if your MP is amongst the list below, please send them a thank you, and let them know how grateful we are to them for standing up for children.
Robert Halfon email@example.com Edward Timpson firstname.lastname@example.org Tim Loughton email@example.com Sir Iain Duncan Smith Iain.firstname.lastname@example.org Christian Wakeford email@example.com Tom Hunt firstname.lastname@example.org Brendan Clarke – Smith email@example.com Greg Smith firstname.lastname@example.org Siobhan Baillie email@example.com Miriam Cates firstname.lastname@example.org Munira Wilson email@example.com David Warburton firstname.lastname@example.org
|The news of the Bill had tremendous coverage, which helped raise awareness of the challenges that children are facing, and helped recruit the support of the current Children’s Commissioner, two former Children’s Commissioners and MPs.|