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What human rights can tell us about school closures

International human rights law provides a crucial lens through which to judge the competing rights and obligations at play in a crisis

By Aoife Nolan  

Photo: Jan Woitas/DPA/PA Images

In mid-December, the London Boroughs of Greenwich, Waltham Forest and Islington sought to close schools for face-to-face teaching except for children of key workers and those designated as vulnerable. The government responded with strong criticism of this “unilateral action” and proceeded for the first time to deploy its education-related powers under the Coronavirus Act 2020, forcing the authorities to back down.

Further strife was to come over the school holidays. On 30th December, having announced a two-week delay to the opening of secondary schools in England, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson stated that primary schools in 50 local authorities…

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