Coronavirus petition urges schools not to fine parents for removing kids

Parents worried about coronavirus want to be able to pull their children out of school without punishment while the UK faces the worst health crisis for a century.

More than 60,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the Government not to prosecute mums, dads or caregivers who remove a child during a pandemic.

Councils have told parents to follow the Government's advice and send their kids to school if they are feeling well, meaning they could be fined if they are given an unauthorised absence.

Children who develop a continuous cough or fever at school should be sent home with suspected coronavirus, new guidance states.

Pupils on social media have vowed to stage a walkout on Friday, as the Twitter hashtag #Covid19Walkout trended.

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With the worst still to come, Boris Johnson is keeping schools open – saying  it "could do more harm than good" – as European nations such as Ireland and parts of the US and Canada enforce blanket closures.

Countries that have fewer infections and deaths have closed their schools to prevent Covid-19 from spreading.

Councils have told parents that if their children are feeling well they should follow Government advice and attend school.

Children who develop a continuous cough or fever at school should be sent home with suspected coronavirus, new guidance states.

Updated information from the Government says all educational settings should remain open unless directly advised to close by Public Health England (PHE).

If a student is feeling unwell or self-isolating, the absence will be marked as authorised, according to the Government.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The current advice from Public Health England is that schools should remain open unless advised otherwise.

“It is for headteachers to decide whether an individual absence is authorised, but where schools are open and pupils are not unwell and have not been asked to self-isolate by PHE, we would expect them to attend school as normal.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson was due to hold crisis talks with school heads and teachers' unions.

Polly Kerr, a senior associate with Tees Law in Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, said parents should check with their school before keeping their children at home.

She wrote in the Bishop's Stortford Independent: "If you are considering keeping your child at home as a result of your concerns about coronavirus, I strongly advise that you speak with your child’s school before making any decision to do so because, if the school is not closed and public health guidance is being followed, you may find yourself on the wrong side of the law.

"If your concerns about your child are particularly focused around underlying health conditions, be sure to highlight this to the school when you speak with them."

The petition, meanwhile, is titled "No prosecution for parents that remove child from school during a pandemic".

It reads: "Legislate to allow parents to have the option to remove their children from school if there is a pandemic e.g. Coronavirus or similar without negative action by schools or local authorities.

"They shouldn't lose the child’s place in the school or face any kind of prosecution."

The Government must respond to the petition because it has more than 10,000 signatures.

Parliament must consider it for a debate if and when it hits the 100,000 mark.

There have been separate calls for this year’s GCSE and A-level exams to be postponed to 2021.

While there are no blanket closures, some schools have closed temporarily due to concerns or to be deep cleaned after pupils, staff or parents tested positive for the flu-like illness.

One of the latest was Hateley Heath Primary School in West Bromwich after its business manager was diagnosed with coronavirus.

In Aberdeen, Hazlehead Academy was shut for "precautionary cleaning".

Dean Maguirc College in Carrickmore, Northern Ireland, is closed until at least March 30 "to curtail the spread" of the disease.

Belfast has closed its 10 special schools due to coronavirus fears.

Speaking on ITV's Good Morning Britain, Dr Hilary Jones said schools should shut once virus hotspots are identified.

However, it is difficult to identify hotspots when the Government refuses to test everyone with symptoms, he added.

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