MPs to vote on bill banning Boris Johnson from ordering school closures

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Members of Parliament are set to debate whether to ban Boris Johnson’s government from closing schools again without parliamentary approval.

Robert Halfon, chair of the Commons Education Select Committee, said the lockdowns imposed during the Covid pandemic “have dealt a heavy blow to students’ education and well-being”.

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The Conservative MP is introducing a bill that would redefine schools and education settings as “essential infrastructure,” along with power stations, hospitals and supermarkets, in an effort to protect students from future closures.

The MPs Special Bill – which has the support of England’s Children’s Commissioner – would introduce a “triple lock” of protection to ensure that any potential school closures must be approved by Parliament.

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In the Ten Minutes Bill, which was introduced on Wednesday, Mr Halfon said he wanted to stop the “horrific” impact of school closures, claiming they threatened the future of millions of pupils.

“While national lockdowns have been important to protect the health of the public, school closures have been nothing short of a disaster for our children,” he said.

“Even before the pandemic, disadvantaged students had spent 18 months learning behind their well-to-do peers by the time they took their matriculation,” Mr Halfon added.

“Now, as a result of school closures, these students are facing a widening achievement gap and a worsening mental health crisis, many preventative risks and diminished life chances.”

The Conservative Party’s triple-lock plan requires the government to seek advice from the Children’s Commissioner on whether a national or regional school closure is necessary and in the best interests of students.

A debate and vote to approve any proposed school closure will then take place in the House of Commons under the proposals. If approved, the education minister would have to return to Parliament every three weeks for another vote on any proposed extension.

Few of the ten-minute bills pass through Parliament, even if they pass the first reading stage. Halfon’s bill only stands a chance of becoming law if the government supports it.

But Education Minister Nadim Zahawi told lawmakers he would “take a look” at Halfon’s bill as he pledged to keep schools open this winter.

Speaking before the Education Committee on Wednesday, Al-Zahawi told MPs: “I will take a look [at Mr Halfon’s bill] …I have absolutely no plans to close schools again. We don’t want to go back to a world where children are out of school. My commitment to you as Secretary of State will be to keep schools open.”

He had high-level support from the Children’s Commissioner for England, Mrs. Rachel de Sousa, who said: “It is absolutely right for us to do everything in our power to keep schools open for children. ‘Triple lock’ means taking into account the needs of children at every stage to keep children in The school “.

“We support the idea of ​​defining schools and other educational settings as ‘basic infrastructure’ and are doing everything we can to keep them open in times of national emergency,” said Jeff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

“However, it is clear that this must take into account public health advice in any future emergency and must be accompanied by a commitment from the government and Parliament to provide educational institutions with adequate support.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Education (DfE) said: “We have acted quickly during the pandemic to minimize the impact on children’s education and well-being and to help keep students in education as face-to-face as possible.”

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