Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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What the Petitions Committee is doing

Petition Close all universities down for an appropriate amount of time amidst COVID-19

We would like the government to to consider closing universities down in the coming weeks or as soon as possible, in addition to taking necessary actions to prevent further spread

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To prevent the spread of COVID-19

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100,000

Parliament will consider this for a debate

Parliament considers all petitions that get more than 100,000 signatures for a debate

Waiting for 25 days for a debate date

Government responded

This response was given on 24 March 2020

The Government’s number one priority is the safety of students and staff. The DfE is working with universities to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, based on guidance from Public Health England.

Read the response in full

The Government’s number one priority is the safety and wellbeing of students and staff. We will also do all we can to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the higher education (HE) sector.

On 18 March, the Prime Minister and Education Secretary announced changes to the operational models of schools and colleges in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. These changes show how much we need to ratchet up social distancing measures to deal with the outbreak.

The Government recognises the importance of supporting HE providers to remain open, as long as expert medical advice supports this. It is doing all it can to support the HE sector and its students, including encouraging them to make online teaching provision as widespread as possible for the summer term, in compliance with social distancing guidance.

Cessation of face-to-face teaching in favour of online provision is not closure. It is a move that enables compliance with social distancing guidance. We will continue to work with the sector to understand the developing range of options for distance teaching and learning and ensure that we support students where necessary.

Any decision to close universities would be based on careful consideration of multiple factors. In any eventuality, a significant number of students may be care leavers, students who are estranged from their families, and international students for whom alternative accommodation is not easily available or who are not able to get home because of travel restrictions. It is essential that these students are reassured that their provider will continue to support them through these difficult and unsettling times. Students who remain in campus accommodation will also need additional support, including access to counselling and mental health advice.

The Department for Education (DfE) stands ready to support providers in any discussion that is needed to ensure that they have access to the right resources to care for students. The Chancellor has also announced a series of wider measures to support employers and employees, recognising the significant impacts caused by COVID-19.

Department for Education.

Other parliamentary business

Petitions Committee questions Government on its response to coronavirus

We emailed people who had signed this petition by 16 March to ask for your questions about the Government’s response to coronavirus.

Thank you to everyone who sent us your questions: we received over 60,000.

We put the most requested questions to the Government Minister for Schools, the Minister for Disabled People and the Deputy Chief Medical Officer. These included:

  • How long will schools be closed for and what will the impact be on exams and grades?
  • What financial support will be available for the self-employed?
  • What financial support will be offered to people who are unable to pay their rent or bills due to self-isolation or loss of work?
  • What support will be offered to the events, creative and hospitality industries now that pubs, clubs and cultural venues have been closed?
  • What clear, practical steps can people take to make sure they are following Government guidance on social distancing, household isolation and self-isolation?
  • Who is being tested and why, and will tests be made freely available to everyone?
  • What is the Government doing to ensure that everyone is getting the right information?

Watch the session on YouTube: https://youtu.be/aPLXJcZEfi8

Read the transcript: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/192/the-governments-response-to-coronavirus/publications/written-evidence/

Because of the large number of petitions that we continue to receive on coronavirus we have sent more questions to the Government to answer.

Read our letters to different Government Ministers: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/publications/3/correspondence/

Some of the questions we’ve asked include:

  • When will testing capacity will be increased; who will testing be available for and will it be free?
  • What is being done to tackle the spread of disinformation?
  • How quickly will support for self-employed people be made available?
  • What will happen to the school year? Will summer holidays be cancelled so that children can catch up?
  • How are foodbanks being supported to continue operating during the outbreak?
  • What is being done to address panic buying and prevent price hikes of key items?
  • Will trains, buses and flights continue to operate? For how long?

We’ll email you again to let you know when we get a response to these questions, and to let you know about any more action the Committee takes.

Who are we?

We are the House of Commons Petitions Committee. We are a cross-party group of MPs that looks at e-petitions submitted on petition.parliament.uk. We are independent from Government. You can find out more about us and our work on our website.

You can follow the Petitions Committee on Twitter: @HoCpetitions.

Further information

You can read impartial House of Commons Library information about coronavirus here: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/coronavirus/

You can find out more about coronavirus and how you can protect yourself and others here:

https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

You can read NHS tips to help if you are worried about coronavirus here: https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/coronavirus-covid-19-anxiety-tips

Tell us what you want to know about the Government's response to coronavirus

As the result of the large numbers of petitions and signatures we've received on coronavirus, we will be putting your concerns and questions directly to the Government at an evidence session (a question and answer session with representatives from the Government) in the coming days.

Tell us what question(s) you'd like us to the ask the Government and experts in this short survey: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/petitionscommittee/

We'll email you again to let you know more about the session, including when it's going to happen, who'll be taking part and how you can watch it live.

We will also email you a link to the video and a transcript of the session afterwards.

Who are we?

We are the House of Commons Petitions Committee. We are a cross-party group of MPs that looks at e-petitions submitted on petition.parliament.uk. We are independent from Government. You can find out more about us and our work on our website: http://www.parliament.uk/petitions-committee/role

You can follow the Petitions Committee on Twitter: @HoCpetitions

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