The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has today (18 March) published summary information about the contents of the forthcoming Emergency Coronavirus Bill, which will be laid before Parliament tomorrow (19 March).

The main features of the Bill of most relevance for schools and academy trusts are summarised below (source: DHSC):

  • Easing the burden on frontline staff, both within the NHS and beyond:
    • Provide powers to require educational institutions or childcare providers to stay open or relax some requirements around education legislation in order to help these institutions run effectively during the event of an emergency. This could include reducing teacher ratios, adapting school meal standards and relaxing provisions for those with special educational needs. This will ensure that children, young people and those who work with them remain safe, while minimising disruption to everyday life and progression to further and higher education or employment by ensuring schools have the flexibility and support they need to respond pragmatically to the changing situation.
  • Delaying and slowing the virus:
    • The government’s objective is to delay and flatten the peak of the epidemic by bringing forward the right measures at the right time, so that we minimise suffering and save lives. To slow the virus, we will need people to reduce unnecessary social contacts, which, for periods of time, may mean preventing gatherings of people, postponing electoral events over the course of the year or closing schools, further or high education premises or childcare providers. This will help mitigate the risk to public health arising from such mass gatherings.
    • This will happen only where necessary, to help minimise disruption to everyday life and progression of children and young people to further and higher education or employment. The measures would only be put in place for the period of time required to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • To support this, the Bill seeks to (among other actions) provide a temporary power to close educational establishments or childcare providers.

Further details can be found: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-bill-what-it-will-do/what-the-coronavirus-bill-will-do

Please note that any additional details available once the Bill is published in full tomorrow (19 March) will be included in this week’s Strategy and Intelligence Briefing.