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Two recent developments worthy of at least the passing attention of education lawyers

October 4th, 2010 by Tim Kerr QC

Readers of this blog may want to note two recent developments worthy of at least the passing attention of education lawyers.  Both show the zeal of Mr Gove and his team for legislative activism, although he has also recently complained (rightly) of too much legislation and guidance in the education field.

First, the Education (Prescribed Public Examinations) (England) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/2327).  These are due to enter into force on 1 January 2011. They update the recognised qualifications for which maintained schools are obliged to enter their pupils, without charge to the parents.  For the first time, favoured alternatives to standard GCSEs and A levels are formally prescribed for the purposes of the sections of the Education Act 1996 (sections 402, 451, 453 and 454), which impose obligations on schools in relation to entering pupils into examinations. The Education (Prescribed Public Examinations) Regulations 1989 (so far as they apply to England) are revoked.  Among the newly prescribed qualifications are Asset Languages Qualifications and the International Baccalaureate Diploma.

Secondly, many readers will have seen press reports quoting Mr Gove as saying he wants to do three things to protect teachers against allegations of assault.  Practitioners will be aware of the danger that an allegation can paralyse a teacher’s career, whether well founded or not.  Too often in my experience, the outcome is the departure of the teacher after lengthy suspension or sick leave, without the allegations ever being either proved or dismissed.  It is difficult to commend the present system.  No reforming laws have yet been drafted, but the plan is (i) to allay teachers’ fears that touching a pupil is likely to lead to disciplinary action; (ii) to give teachers a right to anonymity when faced with allegations from pupils; and (iii) to cut down and clarify the hundreds of pages of guidance on disciplining students and on bullying.

Tim Kerr QC