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The Education and Adoption Bill

5 Jan

The Education and Adoption Bill aims to empower the Secretary of State for Education to intervene and convert schools that are not providing suitable education into academies. She will also be authorised to make joint arrangements for carrying out local authority adoption functions in England.

So what are the categories of schools judged to be unsatisfactory which will come under the Secretary of State’s scrutiny? Continue reading

The Trade Union Bill 2015/16

5 Jan

The Trade Union Bill 2015/16 focuses on new provision for industrial action, trade unions, employers’ associations and the functions of the certification officer.   The Bill, which has had its third reading in the House of Commons on 10 November 2015, and is going through the House of Lords, proposes a higher voting threshold for ballots.

When enacted, it will apply to England, Wales and Scotland.   It will impose a minimum 50% turnout in strike ballots – with public-sector strikes also requiring the backing of at least 40% of those eligible to vote.   Under the current rules, a strike can be called if the majority of those participating in a ballot vote in favour.

The Bill

(a)        doubles the amount of notice unions will have to give before a strike can be held from seven to 14 days;

(b)        allows employers to use agency workers to replacing striking staff;

(c)        introduces fines of up to £20,000 on unions for repeatedly failing to ensure picket supervisors wear official armbands; and

(d)        ends the so-called check-off system for collecting union subscriptions direct from the salaries of members. This means it will be unlawful to require a member of a trade union to make a contribution to the political fund of a trade union if the member has not given to the union notice in writing of her/his willingness to contribute to that fund (an “opt-in notice”); or an opt-in notice given by the member has expired under subsection or has withdrawn it.

Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, stressed that this was not a “declaration of war” against the unions but rather, an attempt to stop “endless” threats of industrial action.   The Labour Party, on the other hand, said the Bill was “draconian and counter-productive”.

Governance Regulations to be updated and rationalised

3 Jan

The Department for Education (DfE) issued draft governance regulations published in late December 2014.   Stakeholders are invited to respond to the Advisory Group on Governance (AGOG) at AGOG.Communications@education.gsi.gov.uk on the consultation document  by no later than 19 February 2015.  The aim is to rationale and tidy up the many changes that were brought about by recent legislative initiatives and are mainly of a technical nature.

For instance, the proposed regulations will, when enacted, ensure that rules about shadow governing bodies and the transition from Interim Executive Board (IEBs) to full-blown governing bodies are brought into line with the 2012 Constitution Regulations.

Continue reading

New curriculum takes off on 1 September 2014

25 Aug

I           What is the Curriculum?

A new national curriculum is being implemented from September 2014 in all maintained schools.  However, academies and free schools may plough their own furrows.  Notwithstanding, the law requires that all institutions, including academies and free schools, offer a curriculum which is broad and balanced and which “promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils” in schools and within society and prepares them “for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life”.

Despite the problems of time-constraints, the guidance has made explicit that “the school curriculum comprises all learning and other experiences that each school plans for its pupils” and the national curriculum forms only “one part of the school curriculum”.

In addition to devising an eclectic curriculum, every school must also make arrangements for a daily act of collective worship of a wholly or mainly Christian orientation – unless exempt from doing so by the local Standard Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE) – and “teach religious education to pupils at every key stage”.  Secondary schools must also have on their timetables Sex and Relationship Education (SRE).   Each school should make provision for personal, social, health and economic education (PSHEE), based on good practice.

Maintained schools, with the exception of academies and free schools, are subject to a legal requirement “to follow the …..programmes of study, on the basis of key stages, subject content for those subjects that should be taught to all pupils”.  A school may go beyond this and include other subjects or topics of its choice in planning and designing its own programme of education.   However, every school must publish its curriculum by subject and academic year on-line. Continue reading

Changes to Governance Regulations

24 Apr

The Secretary of State consulted in the Spring Term 2014 on proposed changes to the structure and procedures of the governing body. The consultations, launched on 13 January 2014, closed on 14 March 2014.  Regulations were laid before Parliament and come into force on 1 September 2014.  Three primary changes will take effect. Continue reading

Children and Families Bill 2013

24 Apr

The Children and Families Bill is making rapid progress through parliament and likely to receive the Royal Assent in the summer of 2014.   The provisions take forward the Coalition Government’s commitment to improve services for vulnerable children and support families.  The bill reforms the systems for adoption, looked-after children, family justice and special educational needs. It will encourage growth in the childcare sector, introduce a new system of shared parental leave and ensure children in England have a strong advocate for their rights.  Continue reading

Deregulation Bill

30 Aug

On 1 July 2013, the De-regulation Bill was published. The aim of the government is to reduce red tape.   Nearly 2,000 regulations will be either reduced in intensity or removed.  Schools will be affected in the following ways.

(a)  Community and voluntary controlled schools will be given the power to set their own terms dates and holidays. Currently, the local authorities set the term dates and the schools have to comply.  However, powers to set term and holidays reside currently with academies and foundation, free and voluntary aided schools.

(b)  Governors and headteachers of local authority maintained schools in England and Wales will not be required to have regard to the Secretary of State’s statutory guidance in regard to the appointment, discipline, suspension and dismissal of staff members.  Instead, they will be advised about where they can receive expert help and guidance.

(c)  Every school in England will no longer have to produce behaviour principles which the headteacher must take into account when drafting the behaviour policy.  Rather, the governing body will have responsibility for ensuring that the headteacher determines a behaviour policy. The requirement for a governing body to have a home-school agreement will be abolished.

(d)  The governing body will no longer have to send hard copies of the Ofsted inspection report to the parents.  Instead, it will have to notify parents of the results of the inspection and where they may find the full report.   However, the governing body will have to provide hard copies of the inspection report where parents don’t have access to the internet.

(e)  Current legislation which enables the Secretary of State to require the governing body of a maintained school to set annual performance targets for pupils/students for public examination and National Curriculum tests will be repealed.

In the preamble to the Bill, Kenneth Clarke, the Minister without Portfolio, trumpeted that businesses will be freed of red tap when

i.            health and safety rules for the self-employed workers in low-risk occupations (estimated to be about 800,000 people) are scrapped saving £300,000 (circa) a year;

ii.             the system of apprenticeships will be made more flexible and responsive to the needs of employers and the economy as recommended by the Richard Review as a lot of prescriptive detail in current legislation  will be repealed;

For more information, see Deregulation Act 2014.