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The Education Law Digest – In the news

New Guidance on Pupil Suspensions and Permanent Exclusions

On 1 September 2022, the Department of Education’s guidance on Suspension and Permanent Exclusions came into force.

The changes are not as significant as expected.  The key changes are:

  • New rules about who the headteacher must notified of a suspension or exclusion, including local authorities and virtual school heads (VSH), even if the suspension/exclusions is cancelled and regardless of the length;
  • Guidance on what amounts to unlawful exclusion, known as ‘off-rolling’;
  • Additional responsibilities where the pupil has a social worker or is or was a looked-after child;
  • Clarity on the roles of DSL, VSH and social workers;
  • More guidance on alternative steps to suspension or exclusion, such as off-site direction.
  • Further information on reintegrating excluded or suspended pupils;
  • An updated list of who must be invited to an exclusion meeting and how data should be monitored.

The complete guidance can be reviewed here.

New Measure for Schools not making Necessary Improvements

From 1 September 2022, the Secretary of State introduced a new intervention measure for schools which are not making the necessary improvements, also known as ‘coasting’ schools. The complete guidance is located here.

This new measure will apply to schools whose overall effectiveness was rated as ‘Requires Improvement’ at their most recent Ofsted inspection and their overall effectiveness was below ‘Good’ at the Ofsted inspection before. If eligible, the Regional Director will have a discretionary power to take any intervention action as they deem appropriate. The powers available to the Director include an ability to appoint additional Governors, direct the closure of the school, appoint an interim executive board, and to make an academy order, amongst others.

In February 2022, the Department for Education identified 55 specific Education Investment Areas, of which are to be prioritised for interventions. Information on the EIAs can be found here.

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Updated Requirements in Keeping Children Safe in Education 2022 Guidance

On 1 September 2022, the Department for Education introduced the Keeping Children Safe in Education 2022 statutory guidance. All schools and colleges in England must have regard for the guidance when conducting their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

Under the updated guidance, there is a new requirement for governors and trustees to receive appropriate training regarding safeguarding and child protection upon their induction, which is routinely updated throughout the course of their employment. This is intended to ensure the effectiveness of implemented safeguarding procedures and policies.

There is also a new recruiting requirement for schools and colleges to perform an online search as part of their due diligence processes when considering shortlisted candidates, in order to locate any publicly available information on the candidate, including from available social media channels.

Additionally, there is expectation for Designated Safeguard Leads to be aware of the requirement for children to have an Appropriate Adult present in relation to police investigations. This is likely in response to the heightened reporting we have seen in recent months in relation to the strip searching of pupils, so it is crucial that any appointed Appropriate Adult has an adequate understanding of the rules and provisions surrounding the conduct of such searches.

The complete guidance is located here.

Updated School Admission Appeals Code 2022

On 1 October 2022 the new School Admission Appeal Code came into force, replacing the previous Code introduced in 2012. The amendments made to the code are minor and it seeks to promote the flexibility and accessibility of the appeals process.

The primary purpose of the new code was to permanently implement the temporary measures introduced during the COVID-19 Pandemic in relation to remote hearings. Specifically, admission appeal hearings can now be hosted virtually or in-person, so long as the admission authorities are content that the appeal can be conducted fairly and transparently with all participants being able to present their cases and engage in the hearing throughout.

The complete code can be found here.