English Member of Parliament Robert Halfon introduced a bill Wednesday which would block pandemic-related school shutdowns.
The Bill I am introducing today would redefine schools and education settings as “essential infrastructure”, alongside power stations, hospitals and food retailers.
It would also bring forward a triple lock to protect our pupils from the disaster of future school closures. pic.twitter.com/VTLwpD4xff
— Robert Halfon MP -Working Hard for Harlow- (@halfon4harlowMP) November 3, 2021
The bill proposes a “triple lock” to prevent closures. Schools could only be shut down at a regional or national level after the Children’s Commissioner’s advice is sought and a debate and vote are held in Parliament. Any approved shutdowns would need to return to parliament for a vote every three weeks.
“Protecting face-to-face learning is my absolute priority. I have no plans whatsoever to close schools again,” said Halfon, chairman of the Commons Education Committee, according to BBC News.
The legislation would classify all schools, including universities, as “essential infrastructure,” meaning they would remain open during public health emergencies, according to Halfon.
Halfon attributes a widening academic achievement gap, worsening mental health and negative health impacts for children to school shutdowns during the pandemic. “Schools and educational settings play a vital role in safeguarding our young people from harm. Without that safety net, too many vulnerable youngsters have slipped through the cracks,” he said.
“Never again must schools have to compete with pubs, theme parks and Primark to open,” said the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, BBC News reported. (RELATED: 19-Year-Old Beats Out Incumbent School Board Member)
English schools were locked down from March to July 2020 and for another period in early 2021, BBC reported.
The battle over school closures and other education decisions related to COVID-19 embroiled American school boards in controversy and was a driving factor in some of Tuesday’s elections.
Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin defeated his Democratic opponent, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, in the Virginia gubernatorial race. Education was likely the most important factor for Virginia voters, according to a poll by The Washington Post.
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