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Updates to key legal documents for schools

The start of another academic year brings a further set of changes to key documents for schools across England and Wales.

Below are the two main changes which schools should be aware of.

Burgundy Book

The Burgundy Book contains the collectively-agreed terms which govern the employment of the majority of teachers in England and Wales – estimated to be around 500,000 by the Local Government Association. It deals with key employment terms such as sick pay, notice periods, maternity leave, in addition to an array of specific and unusual terms further in such as what happens if a teacher’s property is damaged at school.

Local authority-maintained schools are required to employ teachers on Burgundy Book terms. Whilst academies have freedom in this respect, in practice the overwhelming majority also apply Burgundy Book terms. There are a number of reasons for this such as:

  • Avoiding a competitive disadvantage in teacher recruitment
  • Preserving good industrial relations with the teaching unions
  • The practical point that a significant portion of teachers at academies will already have been employed on Burgundy Book terms which will have been protected under TUPE at the point of academy conversion.

The Burgundy Book operates alongside the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD), which deals with pay-related matters as is updated annually. However, unlike the STPCD, the Burgundy Book – or the Conditions of Service for School Teachers in England and Wales as it is officially titled – hadn’t been updated since its introduction in 2000.

Anybody familiar with HR and employment law would have noticed that many aspects of the Burgundy Book were outdated – both in terms of language used and modern working practices. This is hardly surprising given how much employment law has moved on in the past two decades.

However, those expecting widespread modernisation of these collective terms will have been disappointed. The Burgundy Book has been given little more than a ‘facelift’, mainly by way of modernised language (particularly around maternity leave) and by references to more recent legislation.

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Whilst changes to the generous contractual benefits such as sick pay were never going to be ‘on the table’ as part of the update, developments in employment law since 2000 (such as shared parental leave and flexible working requests) have not been included in the revised version. These matters will remain subject to individual contracts of employment and/or individual employer policies.

The collective negotiation forum has also not taken this opportunity to address some of the more ambiguous provisions of the Burgundy Book, such as the extended sick pay provisions for work-related injuries under paragraph 9.1 of section 4.

Keeping Children Safe in Education (“KCSIE”) 2023

KCSIE is the detailed statutory guidance published by the Department for Education (“DfE”) regarding how schools and colleges must meet their safeguarding obligations across all areas such as recruitment, dealing with safeguarding allegations against employees and incidents of peer-on-peer abuse, which is a particular focus of Ofsted and the DfE.

The annual update to KCSIE has come into effect. Schools should ensure that staff (and other relevant personnel such as school governors) re-familiarise themselves with the relevant sections of KCSIE, which for all school staff will include Part 1. Employees should be given regular safeguarding training – and not just those in teaching or classroom-based roles.

Details of the changes to the 2023 version of KCSIE are set out at Annex F of the updated guidance. Schools should review these and amend any policies and practices to comply with the updated guidance as necessary. Whilst there are not necessarily any show stopping changes, there are practical changes that schools should be aware of such as:

  • Schools are now encouraged to advise shortlisted candidates for roles that online searches will be conducted as part of the recruitment process (in line with the 2022 update to KCSIE).
  • A more robust approach is expected in relation to external organisations using school premises; both in relation to the school being satisfied that the external organisation has appropriate safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures in place, and in relation to how schools deal with incidents which arise in the course of external organisations using their premises.
  • Clarity has been provided on the difference between children who are “missing education” as opposed to “absent from education”.

For more information on these changes, or if you would like to talk to us about anything else concerning education law, please do contact Tom Shears or another of our expert Education Lawyers.

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Tom Shears

Managing Associate | Employment

+44 (0) 330 137 3175

+44 (0) 774 040 5735

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Graham Vials

Partner | Employment & Head of Education

+44 (0) 330 137 3168

+44 (0)752 580 2955

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