The government's plans to ensure that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds can access their education online while schools are closed are “not good enough”.
That’s according to a group of lawyers who have started legal action against the government on the grounds that disadvantaged children are being left behind without adequate online resources.
Although education secretary Gavin Williamson announced a support package yesterday, which includes free laptops and data charges being waived for educational websites, the Good Law Project says it “lacks details” and applies mostly to disadvantaged secondary school students with impending exams.
Coronavirus: Legal action for online learning equality
Disadvantaged: Free laptops to help pupils
Good Law Project director Jolyon Maugham QC said: "The Department for Education agreed to meet the needs of, we think, a relatively small number of affected children, mostly in secondary schools.
Coronavirus: Demand for more online learning support
"This, I am afraid, is not good enough. The government knows very well you can't neglect disadvantaged kids in the early years and expect, somehow, all to be right at secondary schools.”
Lawyers for the Good Law Project had already written to Mr Williamson because local authorities were "operating without clear guidance from the government on access to online resources for the most disadvantaged children".
They asked him to set out his plans for this term and threatened legal action if he did not come up with "a clear plan" as to how disadvantaged families without suitable IT equipment or access to the internet would be helped while schools remain closed.
They say they did not receive sufficient assurance and therefore issued "a pre-action protocol letter" on Friday calling for a further response by 24 April.
However, following Mr Williamson's announcement yesterday, they now believe "legal obligations" will not be met and said today they would issue proceedings for a judicial review.
The Good Law Project today told Tes that the government had “accepted its responsibility” through new online learning initiatives such as the Oak National Academy, also announced yesterday.
The Good Law Project is running a crowdfunding page to help fund the legal action.
The DfE has been contacted for comment.