This week Parliament is debating a new bill aimed at giving the Government new powers to help tackle the Coronavirus outbreak.
Please note: the information contained in our legal updates is correct as of the original date of publication.
Last week Parliament approved the new Coronavirus Act aimed at giving the Government new powers to help tackle the Coronavirus outbreak. At 300+ pages, the Act is large and covers a huge range of areas from health and social care to employment and education.
For schools and other education providers the Act gives the Secretary of State three new powers:
We have covered each of these in more detail below.
The power to issue a temporary direction to close educational institutions applies to all educational institutions including maintained schools, academies, 16-19 academies, independent schools, FE provision and HE institutions. There is a similar separate power relating to early-years providers.
Before issuing a direction, the Secretary of State has to get advice from the Chief Medical Officer and be satisfied that issuing a direction is necessary to stop the spread of the Coronavirus.
Whilst the government announced the closure of schools, they have not yet sought to formally issue a temporary closure direction to schools.
Directions can be issued to all institutions, either named individually or those of a particular type. When a direction is issued, the institution covered will have to take reasonable steps to ensure that people do not attend. If the direction is not complied with, it can be enforced in the High Court or County Court.
The opposite to the closure directions, Temporary Continuity Directions allow the Secretary of State to issue directions forcing educational institutions to open or re-open for a period, open for a specific group or open in a period in which they would not usually open (for example, the Easter holidays). They can also be used to require alteration of term dates or require an institution to provide education, training or childcare. Much like the closure direction, the Secretary of State has to take advice from the Chief Medical Officer and be of the opinion that a direction is necessary and proportionate for the continued provision of education, training or childcare.
The Act includes the ability for these powers to be delegated to local authorities and we expect that local authorities will in practice lead the arrangements on a local level. Guidance from the DfE states that LAs should be working with schools to maintain lists of pupils who are vulnerable and those of key workers to ensure there is enough provision in the local area. The idea is not that the LA will operate schools, but instead will act to organise provision.
This broad power allows the Secretary of State, by notice, to disapply or alter specific existing education requirements. While the Act lists lots of statutory provisions which can be subject to a notice, regulations mean that these can be added to and further provisions could be included. The period for any stated provisions to not apply cannot exceed one month, but the Secretary of State could issue new notices each month.
The statutory provisions which can be amended or disapplied are numerous and include the definition of pupils, Ofsted inspections, school meals, collective worship, removing selection by ability, attendance at school and the school duty to admit children with EHCPs. Most of the statutory provisions relate to maintained schools but the Act specifically provides for the power to make similar arrangements in relation to academies.
When we have more detail on how these powers are to be used or when directions/notices are issued, we will publish more articles to assist our education clients. If you would like to discuss any of the above, please contact Philip Wood.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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.
Created at the end of the Brexit transition period, Retained EU Law is a category of domestic law that consists of EU-derived legislation retained in our domestic legal framework by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. This was never intended to be a permanent arrangement as parliament promised to deal with retained EU law through the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill (the “Bill”).