The decision reinforces that the standard of the duty of care owed by schools is one or reasonableness.
The recent dismissal of a claim brought against Danes Educational Trust following a liability trial before Her Honour Judge Bloom reinforces that the standard of the duty of care owed by schools is one or reasonableness and not a guarantee that no incident will occur on school premises.
The claimant, a sixth form student, suffered a significant injury following a very unfortunate incident while climbing over locked school gates on the morning of the last school day of the year. It was alleged the school was in breach of the duty owed under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 to take reasonable care to ensure the reasonable safety of visitors, on the basis that, (i) there was an expectation the gate in question would be unlocked and open from 7am, (ii) there was a lack of supervision on site prior to the school day starting, (iii) there was no risk assessment relating to the gates and (iv) there was a failure to warn of the dangers posed by the gates.
The court considered each allegation and found there were no deficiencies in either the premises or school’s procedures:
The court concluded that there was no breach of the common law duty of care and that, at the time of the accident, the claimant could not be considered a lawful visitor for the purposes of the Occupiers Liability Act 1957. The claimant had limited permission to enter the premises, but that did not extend to being permitted to climb the gate and therefore any duty of care owed was the lesser duty under the Occupiers liability Act 1984. There was no reasonable foresight that the claimant would suffer injury in the manner in which she did and therefore no liability on the school - the claimant had made a foolish error that could not be foreseen and the school was not liable for her actions.
Schools can take comfort from the decision, which emphasises that the courts will be slow to impose an unreasonably high burden and that there is not a duty to warn of an obvious risk. Schools are not expected to be a risk-free environment and all factors will be taken into account when considering reasonable levels of supervision and a need to risk assess, to include a student’s age and maturity.
Browne Jacobson’s liability litigation team represented the defendant Trust in the case and frequently advises academy trusts and maintained schools following accidents on school premises.
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.
Law firm Browne Jacobson has collaborated with Wiltshire Council and Christ Church Business School on the launch event of The Council Company Best Practice and Innovation Network, a platform which brings together academic experts and senior local authority leaders, allowing them to share best practice in relation to council companies.
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).
Announced in September but scrapped on 17 November the investment zone proposals were very short lived. The proposal has now morphed into the proposal for a smaller number of clustered zones earmarked for investment.