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Exclusion stats

July 29th, 2011 by Rachel Kamm

The Government has released the permanent and fixed term exclusion statistics for 2009-10 for England (only). The press notice describes the key points as follows: 

  • There was an estimated 5,740 permanent exclusions from primary, secondary and all special schools in 2009/10.
  • In 2009/10 there were 279,260 fixed period exclusions from state funded secondary schools, 37,210 fixed period exclusions from primary schools and 14,910 fixed period exclusions from special schools.
  • The average length of a fixed period exclusion in state funded secondary schools was 2.5 days, for primary schools the average length of a fixed period exclusion was 2.1 days.
  • The permanent exclusion rate for boys was approximately 4 times higher than that for girls. The fixed period exclusion rate for boys was almost 3 times higher than that for girls.
  • Pupils with SEN with statements are around 8 times more likely to be permanently excluded than those pupils with no SEN.
  • Children who are eligible for free school meals are around 4 times more likely to receive a permanent exclusion and 3 times more likely to receive a fixed period exclusion than children who are not eligible for free school meals.

Looking at the underlying data, the rate of permanent exclusions from all maintained schools was only 0.08% of pupils. The rate is higher from local authority maintained secondary schools (at 0.14% of pupils) than from primary schools. Even the exclusion rate from maintained secondary schools is much lower than the permanent exclusion rate from across all academies, which was 0.3%.

The data includes information about appeals against permanent exclusions. In 2009-10, 510 appeals were lodged, which means fewer than 1 in 10 school decisions were challenged above the level of the school governors. When parents did appeal to an independent appeal panel, 24% of those heard were determined in favour of the parents. However, only 27% of the successful appeals led to an order for reinstatement.  This is approximately 6.5% of appeals and less than 1% of permanent exclusions. These appeal statistics come with the warning that information on appeals against permanent exclusion from academies is not collected by the Government.

Allegations of Abuse Against Teachers

July 27th, 2011 by Clive Sheldon QC

The Department of Education has issued statutory guidance for ‘Dealing with Allegations of Abuse against Teachers and Other Staff’ (see https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/dealing%20with%20allegations%20of%20abuse%20against%20teachers%20and%20other%20staff.pdf). Local authorities and governing bodies must have regard to this guidance when dealing with allegations of abuse.

The key points of the guidance are that:

(1) allegations should be resolved quickly;

(2) suspension of staff should not be the ‘default option’ once an allegation is made; suspension should only take place where there is ‘no reasonable alternative’;

(3) malicious allegations should be removed from personnel records, and unsubstantiated, unfounded or malicious allegations should not be referred to in employment references;

(4) pupils making malicious allegations may be sanctioned under the school’s behaviour policies;

(5) all institutions should have procedures for dealing with allegations.

The Guidance reminds governing bodies and local authorities that they have ‘a duty of care to their employees’ and so should ‘ensure they provide effective support for anyone facing an allegation’.

Governing bodies should refer allegations of harm or possible harm  to children; criminal offences against or related to a child; or behaviour towards children which indicate that the staff member would pose a risk of harm if working regularly or closely with children, to the local authority designated officer (LADO). The LADO can then decide whether police or social services should be contacted. Reference to the LADO should be made before speaking to the accused person. The accused should, however, be informed of the allegation as soon as possible after the LADO has been consulted, unless a strategy discussion is needed or police/social services involvement is required, in which case notification may be delayed.

The Guidance makes specific reference to Resignations and the use of ‘Compromise Agreements’ when the accused tenders his or her resignation or ceases to provide services. The Guidance states that tendering a resignation ’must not prevent an allegation being followed up in accordance with the procedures’, but the accused should (even though they may have left employment) be given a full opportunity to answer the allegation and make representations about it. 

The Guidance emphatically states that ‘compromise agreements’, by which a person agrees to resign if disciplinary action is not pursued, and it is agreed that a form of words is to be used for future references, ‘must not be used in these cases’.

All in all, the Guidance seems to provide a sensible set of arrangements and procedures: protective of the rights and interests of both the accuser and the accused.

BSF and Hacking

July 25th, 2011 by Christopher Knight

The various legal ramifications of the long-running Building Schools for the Future saga have been covered on a number of occasions on this blog, including here, here and here. In a rather unexpected development, it appears that BSF has managed to draw this blog into the previously unchartered territories of the phone hacking furore, more usually the type of newsworthy matter covered by our learned brethren over at Panopticon.

The BBC is reporting that Tim Byles, the chief executive in charge of BSF, had raised with his Permanent Secretary and the Cabinet Secretary concerns that he was being subjected to nuisance phone calls and suspected that his phone had been tampered with. The story has arisen because of the cryptic question posed by former Labour Minister Nick Raynsford at the phone hacking debate on 20 July 2011 to the Prime Minister attempting to link Andy Coulson to a ‘politically motivated’ campaign against a senior civil servant. Mr Byles is now believed to be the figure in question. The Cabinet Secretary appears to have poured cold water on any link to Mr Coulson and the police apparently found no evidence of interference with the phone. Nonetheless, it is perhaps of some small comfort to those labouring away in the sometimes dusty fields of education law to know that they are but one controversial political decision away from potentially joining such icons of the modern age as Max Clifford, Sienna Miller and Hugh Grant.

Disability Discrimination Claims in Wales

July 22nd, 2011 by Christopher Knight

From 6 July 2011, pupils in Wales are able to bring disability discrimination claims, relating to acts of discrimination in schools, to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal for Wales. This is the effect of the imaginatively named The Right of a Child to Make a Disability Discrimination Claim (Schools) (Wales) Order 2011 (SI 2011/1651 (W187)). The need arises out of the repeal of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 by the Equality Act 2010.

The Order amends – through the mechanism of the amendment of the Education (Wales) Measure 2009 – Schedule 17 to the Equality Act 2010. Specific Welsh paragraphs are added into Schedule 17, including one making provision for ‘case friends’ to make representations on the child’s behalf. The amendments are quite substantial, and should be read by those practising in the area.

The full Order can be viewed here.

Building Schools for the Future

July 20th, 2011 by Edward Capewell

In a previous post on the decision in R (Luton Borough Council & others) v Secretary of State for Education [2011] EWHC 217 (Admin) – the Building Schools for the Future case – I described the local authorities’ success as only partial. And so it seems, as Rachel Kamm reported yesterday. The case provides a good example of a very common form of victory in judicial review claims: the Pyrrhic.  Michael Gove, in his statement to the House of Commons on school funding yesterday said:

Some of those local authority areas that had experienced the termination of their BSF projects asked for a judicial review of my Department’s decisions. In February, Mr Justice Holman found in favour of the Department on the substantive matters in dispute, but he found against me on procedural grounds and asked me to look again at the decision in six local authorities. He stressed that the decision to restore all, some or none of the projects was a matter for me. Over the past few months, Ministers and officials have listened carefully to the case made by the six local authorities and I am very grateful to them for the timely and constructive way in which they have presented their case. I have today written to those authorities to let them know that I am minded to indemnify them for contractual liabilities resulting from the stage their projects had reached but Iam not minded to restore their specific BSF projects. They now have a further opportunity to make representations to me before I take a final decision.

Bookmakers are not yet giving odds on whether the final decision will be different from yesterday’s.

New Chair of Ofqual

July 20th, 2011 by Christopher Knight

Suprisingly, amongst the spate of media and police resignations in the last week or so the press has found little room to report happier news. For readers of this blog that more pleasant category will doubtless include the appointment of Amanda Spielman as the new Chair of the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation, or Ofqual. The position is known as the Chief Regulator and the appointment was made in the Chief Regulator of Qualifications and Examinations Order 2011 (SI 2011/1690). It came into force on 14 July 2011 and Ms Spielman replaces Kathleen Tattersall (see SI 2009/3208).

For those readers who doubt that the entirety of the 2011 Order has been summarised in this post, the legislative instrument may be viewed here.

A busy day for Mr Gove

July 19th, 2011 by Rachel Kamm

Michael Gove has made a statement today covering a number of education funding topics. There are various decisions, one ‘minded to’ decision and three consultation exercises.

First, the decisions. On schools capital, there will be £500 million to help local authorities provide extra school places to meet the extra pressures caused by increased birth rates. It is announced that there will also be a new (privately financed) school rebuilding programme, targeting those schools in the worst condition; applications can be submitted in October. School building regulations will be pared down significantly with the intention of cutting both costs and red tape.  The Government has said that it will carry out a condition survey of all school buildings so that funding can be better targeted and that it will also improve the design of schools to achieve better buildings and better value.

The ‘almost a decision’ is that  ”The Government is minded not to fund the [Building Schools for the Future] projects which were the subject of a judicial review earlier this year, subject to further representations from the authorities involved“.

The three consultation exercises are on:

1. The recommendations of Sebastian James’s review on school building - the recommendations will be broadly accepted subject to consultation on the details and implementation;

2. Proposals for a new, fairer and more transparent school funding system - the current funding scheme for maintained schools will continue in 2012-13; and

3. On LACSEG academy funding -  the webpage for the consultation paper states that “The Secretary of State for Education, in consultation with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has agreed to reconsider the appropriate reduction to local authority funding to be made to reflect the transfer of central services from local authorities to academies and Free Schools. This consideration will apply to the transfers for both the 2011-12 and 2012-13 financial yearsWe want to ensure that academies and local authorities are funded fairly and we welcome the opportunity to seek views on this reconsideration from local authorities, the Local Government Association and London Councils.

The accompanying letter to local authorities explains that there will also be an open consultation on the 16-19 funding formula and methodology in the coming months.

New Teachers’ Standards

July 19th, 2011 by Michael Lee

The Government has recently published new Teachers’ Standards which will take effect from September 2012.

The new Standards are intended to be more straightforward and concise than those previously in place. The different sets of standards issued by different bodies have been replaced by a single set of Teachers’ Standards running to just four sides. The new Standards apply to all teachers, regardless of what stage of their careers they are at.

One aspect of the new Standards which has drawn media attention (see, for example the BBC and the Telegraph), is the requirement that teachers must not undermine “fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs”.

It has been suggested that this is intended to make it easier to address concerns about teachers with extremist views imparting their opinions onto their students. Yet on its face, the definition of “fundamental British values” appears to be very broad and could in practice be engaged in a range of scenarios (consider, perhaps, a debate about different faiths in the context of religious education). How this particular standard will be applied in practice once in force remains to be seen.

SATs stop press

July 18th, 2011 by Peter Oldham QC

… and following the last blog on this sit, on SATs testing disquiet, the Government has today said that it is accepting the recommendation in Lord Bew’s report on Key Stage 2 testing, published last month, that teachers should mark the English writing test, though there will still be some external marking for the test.   This will take effect from next year.

Peter Oldham QC

SATS marking – concerns of the National Association of Headteachers

July 15th, 2011 by Peter Oldham QC

As reported in this blog,  concern over alleged mistakes in GCSE exams papers have been rife.  See entries from Jane Oldham and Michael Lee  below.  But concerns about public examinations are not limited to GSCEs: the NAHT’s are centered on the marking of an English KS2 SAT tests.  The union says that over 1,000 Heads are unhappy with the quality of some SATS marking. The outcome of SATs can affect schools’ assessed performance levels, league table ranking, and popularity with parents – quite apart from representing the performance and progress of the individual child.

Peter Oldham QC