In this edition we provide you with the latest in legal updates, news and insight from the sector.
Welcome to be connected, our termly update for schools, academies and trusts. With so many new developments in policy and legislation to consider for the academic year ahead, we’ve prepared a bumper edition for you. This issue of be connected is packed with the latest legal updates, news and insight from the sector.
Remember - be connected is your space – it is important to us that the mix of content offers you real value and relevant, useful information. Please help us to help you by providing feedback and comments. What would you like to see featured in the newsletter – and would you like to be part of a future edition?
The Schools Bill is one of the most significant pieces of legislation the sector has seen in recent years. Whilst in some respects it is a natural and necessary regulatory evolution that reflects where the sector finds itself today, the resulting legal reform will be impactful.
The Bill covers the regulation of academies, funding, attendance, the regulation of independent institutions and teacher misconduct. We recently published a series of briefings to help you understand what the Bill means for your school or trust. We will of course update these briefings as the DfE bring forward revised proposals in respect of the highly publicised temporary removal of a raft of clauses from the Bill.
This summer, the DfE is releasing new guidance on exclusions and suspensions, making changes to the behaviour, suspension and exclusion framework and guidance. Our team has designed a range of high-quality support and resources to help you prepare for and implement processes to meet these new regulations, which come into practice this September. The resources on offer include the free one hour webinar we recently delivered, which is now available on demand and a comprehensive support pack of templates to manage the process, along with training sessions for governors and a range of support at Independent Review Panels.
A significant section of the new Schools Bill deals specifically with putting into legislation certain protections and guarantees historically granted to the faith academies sector. With faith schools accounting for more than a third of the education sector, it is highly unlikely that any government would be bold enough to unilaterally remove the rights historically granted to faith schools and academies, but even the suggestion might lead to awkward questions being asked of the Department for Education and result in a potential slowdown in conversions — something which might scupper the Government’s plans for mass academisation as set out in the recent White Paper.
The new Department for Education (DfE) safeguarding guidance ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education 2022’ brings some significant changes, particularly around sourcing high quality governor and trustee training and requirements to carry out online searches for shortlisted candidates. We recently delivered a webinar which set out what you need to know and how best to prepare, and we’re building further support, advice and training so you can be ready for these changes when the guidance comes into practice this September.
We have been working in partnership with the National Governance Association (NGA) and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) on the development of an important guidance paper, ‘Taking the next step – a guide to forming or joining a multi academy trust’. We are delighted to announce its publication and to share it with colleagues across the sector. Given the academisation agenda set out in the recent White Paper, this guidance is in greater demand than ever, so we hope you find it useful.
On 7 May 2022, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) tweeted “Discussions continue on whether ‘Long Covid’ symptoms constitute a disability. Without case law or scientific consensus, EHRC does not recommend that ‘Long Covid’ be treated as a disability.”
This view raised some immediate concerns, not least because it seemed to run contrary to the views expressed by the EHRC Head of Employment policy back in March 2022: that organisations should assume Long Covid symptoms meet the threshold to be classified as a disability in order to avoid breaches of equality law. Our HR specialists consider the implications and considerations for employers in the education sector, offering practical advice for long term absences due to Long Covid.
To plead the EQA 2010, or not to plead the EQA 2010 - that was the question: the Upper Appeal Tribunal considers the interplay between the Children and Families Act 2014 (CFA) and the Equality Act 2010 (EQA).
On 11 May 2022, the Upper Tribunal returned its decision on an appeal which concerned the interface between special educational needs (SEN) provision under the CFA and obligations under the EQA. After hearing submissions from both parties, the judge dismissed the Appellant’s appeal.
Browne Jacobson Barrister Andrew Cullen represented the Respondent and shares his insight from the tribunal and potential implication for other school discrimination cases relating to these acts.
The effect of the current staffing crisis in schools can have a significant impact on the workload and wellbeing of those working in the teaching profession.
Evidence suggests that flexible working can positively influence staff retention and recruitment so could offer some solutions to these challenges, but inevitably brings complications around timetabling and culture. Unsurprisingly, so there is a degree of uncertainty in schools as to if and how flexible working can be implemented.
Timewise recently conducted a Teaching Pioneers Programme in eight secondary schools across three multi-academy trusts which Browne Jacobson was able to support, along with others.
It has been reported that new government guidance to help schools navigate transgender issues is in the early stages of development. Given that Scotland released their own guidance for schools last August and a number of councils have published their own toolkits (despite facing legal challenge on the content), it is clear that government guidance for schools in England is long overdue.
There is a lot going on at present relating to transgender issues, from the publication of the Cass interim report in February 2022 to the EHRC’s recent guidance for single-sex service providers and the lawfulness of excluding transgender people from single sex services.
There are also a number of new cases and appeals on transgender issues waiting to be heard by the courts. It is within this context that schools are trying to support pupils questioning their gender identity on issues relating to toilets and changing facilities, sporting events, changing names and pronouns, uniform, safeguarding, records, data sharing and confidentiality. Guidance to reassure schools that they are acting lawfully will no doubt be a welcome development.
Regardless of the outcome of ballots on industrial action, unless there is drastic change to funding for schools in relation to pay increases, it will be unusual to find any organisational budget that is not impacted by the current economic situation.
There’s been little evidence of interventions or financial management reviews this year and it appears the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has re-focussed on financial delivery. It’s also telling that there were no discernible changes to the reporting of financial irregularities in the Academies Trust Handbook 2022.
The Children’s Commissioner, Rachel De Souza, has recently published a report “Beyond the labels: a SEND system which works for every child, every time”, which she intends to sit alongside the DfE’s SEND Review (2019) and SEND Green Paper (2022) and which she hopes will put children’s voices at the heart of the government’s review of SEND system.
As well as providing day-to-day support to help you focus on managing your settings, we also provide training and professional development on a range of topics to keep you and your staff up-to-date.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHCR) recently issued new, non-statutory guidance regarding the wearing of natural or protective hairstyles, specifically in reference to their representation in uniform, behaviour or standalone appearance policies.
Emma Hughes, head of HR services at Browne Jacobson, explains how CST’s updated executive pay report and the linked benchmarking service from XpertHR can help trust boards make robust decisions on pay.
There’s greater opportunity than ever for parents, carers and guardians to voice any concerns they have relating to their child’s education and for their concerns to be heard and to be taken seriously. While most staff in schools and academies are conscious of their legal duties relating to complaints management, many are struggling to cope with such a significant increase in the volume of complaints they must manage.
This guidance has been prepared to support academy trusts (Trusts) who want to hold a fully virtual Annual General Meeting (AGM) or a hybrid AGM, as we know that Trusts may want to be prepared for future disruption as well as having a general interest in holding more meetings virtually. The guidance also applies to other meetings of the Members (known as General Meetings).
We’re pleased to collaborate with Lloyds Bank, who recently asked us and audit and risk specialists Crowe UK to offer guidance that academy trusts would find helpful when considering setting up a trading subsidiary.
The DfE has published new guidance and opened the application process for window two of the Trust Capacity Fund (TCaF) for 2022/2023, with a fund of £86m in trust capacity funding focused particularly on education investment areas.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse was established in March 2015. We now have its report. As you would expect with such a broad scope, the report is long and makes a number of far-reaching recommendations. In this article, Dai Durbridge highlights seven of the 20 recommendations, sets out how they could impact on schools and suggests what steps to take now.
Browne Jacobson’s education team has been named as winner of the ‘Legal Advisors to Education Institutions’ category at the Education Investor Awards 2022 for a record sixth time.
Since the new Suspensions and Exclusions Statutory Guidance was published, we have received a lot of questions about the use of managed moves. For the first time, the Statutory Guidance does explain what a managed move is, but in relatively broad terms and does not cover the mechanics of how a managed move should operate.
Over 3000 young people from across the UK and Ireland took part in a virtual legal careers insight event, aimed at making the legal profession more diverse.
Holly Quirk, an associate barrister in Browne Jacobson’s Manchester office, was awarded the Legal Professional of the Year Award at this year’s Manchester Young Talent Awards.
The risk of assault against staff is, sadly, something that all schools need to consider carefully. Here one legal expert explains what they can do to protect staff and ensure they fulfil their duty of care.
An engineering company in Tyne and Wear was fined £20,000 after a worker fractured his pelvis and suffered internal injuries after falling through a petrol station forecourt canopy, whilst he was replacing the guttering.
Browne Jacobson’s education team has again been confirmed as a national powerhouse after securing five Tier 1 rankings relating to Education in the latest edition of Legal 500 and maintaining a Band 1 UK-wide ranking for Education in Chambers & Partners UK 2023.