Education Archives - Palmers Solicitors
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SEND Green Paper – an overview of the Government’s plans

SEND Green Paper – an overview of the Government’s plans

Plans are underway to transform the support provided to children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) as part of a new national education plan, as outlined in the Government’s SEND and Alternative Provision Green Paper.

The Green Paper follows the SEND Review and families are now being invited to have their say on how the new system will be shaped. The proposals aim to improve a system that has been criticised for being a postcode lottery, leaving many young people with poor outcomes.

The Green Paper proposals at a glance

 New national standards will be set across education, health and care to boost performance across the SEND system.

  • Educational, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) will be simplified and made digital to reduce bureaucracy. It is envisaged that this will give parents access to information on appropriate placements to make informed choices.
  • ‘Local inclusion dashboards’ will be published to improve transparency to make information more accessible to parents and young people.
  • Local authorities will be legally required to introduce ‘local inclusion plans’ to give more certainty on who is responsible for and when across early years, school and post-16 education.
  • The ‘culture and practice’ within mainstream education are to be changed to become more inclusive for children with SEND. The ability to identify and provide help is to be improved by targeted support and earlier intervention.
  • A new national framework for councils will be created for banding and tariffs for high needs to match the national standard. It is hoped this will provide families with clarity on the level of support they can expect and help make the system more financially sustainable for the future.
  • Workforce training will be improved with the introduction of a new SENCo NPQ for school SENCos and to boost the number of staff in early years settings with an accredited level 3 qualification.

Legal challenge results in DfE cancelling 19 academy orders

Legal challenge results in DfE cancelling 19 academy orders

The DfE has backed down on academy orders which would have forced 19 schools to join a church MAT, following a legal challenge.

The legal action was brought by four education unions after Catholic Hallam Diocese schools were issues academy orders with their governors’ express consent.

The diocese, which covers South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, had originally sought to academise all voluntary Catholic schools in its catchment and, as a result, the DfE issued academy orders in December 2021, even though such directives are normally only handed down as a result of “inadequate” Ofsted inspections.

Head teachers and governors at the affected schools expressed shock and surprise that the orders had been issues without their consultation and the unions mounted a legal challenge, citing the fact that the governors had note voted on the matter and the orders were therefore void.

As a result, the DfE has now agreed to formally withdraw academy orders for all 19 schools.

Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the National Education Union, added: “This is a victory for common sense, and an important line in the sand.”

A spokesperson for the DfE said: “We continue to work with the Diocese of Hallam as they establish academy trusts in consultation with their schools, and will issue new academy orders in due course once formal applications are made by the relevant schools’ governing bodies.”

If you need legal advice or support either with a MAT application or to challenge academy orders, please get in touch with our expert education team.

Independent schools diversify to weather financial strains

Independent schools diversify to weather financial strains

Independent schools and universities in the UK are diversifying their revenue streams to stay afloat, according to a new report by education insurance provider, Endsleigh.

In a bid to prop up dwindling revenue from more traditional sources, the report found that one in five (22%) independent schools have partnered with commercial organisations.

Amongst independent schools and universities surveyed, 40% had reviewed supply contracts in an effort to find local or better value options.

A third (33%) of independent schools and more than a quarter (27%) of universities admitted they had also increased the number of fundraising events to raise much needed funding.

Whilst funding continues to be a primary focus, the study found that private schools and universities are redoubling their efforts to hire and retain staff, with 85% of institutions taking action to make the working environment and employee wellbeing a key aspect of recruitment and retention.

Amongst the most popular initiatives being offered is hybrid working, with half (50%) of universities and just under 40% of independent schools confirming they have introduced a flexible working policy.

Despite the continued strain on resources, over a quarter (28%) in the sector said they had increased salaries, with just under a quarter (24%) increasing pension contributions.

The report’s authors also found that green credentials are becoming increasingly important, with 12% saying they were introducing plans to achieve net zero emissions or reduce their carbon footprint.

What are your responsibilities as an employer when it comes to workplace banter?

What are your responsibilities as an employer when it comes to workplace banter?

Banter can be a controversial subject. To some, it is simply light-hearted teasing that a team can bond over. Yet to others, it can be interpreted as being a hallmark of a hostile workplace culture where bullying is rife.

Interpreting which actions cross the line and which do not is a tightrope, and as an employer you need to tread carefully to ensure your staff are protected from unacceptable behaviour.

Samantha Randall, an Associate Solicitor with Palmers, who specialises in employment law, said: “Workplace harassment is defined as: “unwanted behaviour linked to a protected characteristic that violates someone’s dignity or creates an offensive environment for them.

“The problem is that one person’s “banter” can easily be another person’s “harassment”.

“The biggest employment law risk is when things touch on protected characteristics under the Equality Act.”

According to the Equality Act, the following characteristics are protected by law:

  • Age
  • Gender reassignment
  • Being married or in a civil partnership
  • Being pregnant or on maternity leave
  • Disabilities
  • Race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation.

Samantha added: “The widespread use of technology and social media means that the risks of workplace harassment are compounded, due to increased communication between employees outside of the workplace; whether by way of video calls or through text messages or instant messaging apps.

“As an employer, you should have in place a clear bullying and harassment policy so if a member of staff feels they are the subject of bullying or harassment, they are able, in the first instance, to raise the matter internally.

“It is important to take all complaints of harassment seriously, particularly if it is an allegation of bullying in relation to a protected characteristic under the Equality Act, as a failure to do so could lead to legal action and a possible employment tribunal.”

For help and advice on all aspects of employment law, please get in touch with us.

Spending gap between state and private education sectors widens

Spending gap between state and private education sectors widens

New research has revealed that the gap in per-pupil spending between the state and private sectors has almost doubled in the past 10 years.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies, which carried out the research, found that average independent school fees, which stands at around 13,600 per year are over 90 per cent higher than the £7,100 spent on state-school pupils during the current school year.

This compares with a spending gap of just 39 per cent a decade ago.

Researchers discovered that independent school fees have typically increased year on year, by around 20 per cent more than inflation rates. However, schools in the state sector have seen their per-pupil funding fall by around 9 per cent in real terms.

Responding to the report’s findings, Association of School and College Leaders General Secretary, Geoff Barton, said: “It is pretty outrageous that the Government has cut funding in real terms to schools and colleges over the past decade, while independent school fees have increased over the same period.

“The funding gap between the two sectors has always been there of course but the fact it has widened to such a huge extent does stick in the throat.

“Surely the Government should want the same opportunities for all children and young people.

“It may be naive to think that state education funding could match the independent sector, but it surely shouldn’t actually go into reverse.”

Palmers Solicitors’ Director, Luke Morgan, said: “Schools in both the state and independent sector have struggled with the ongoing financial impact of Covid-19.

“It is therefore important to seek advice and practical support from specialist advisors who can provide guidance on a range of measures that will help your school not only survive but also thrive in the long-term.”

At Palmers, our experts are able to assist with:

  • Advice relating to staff and employment law including redundancies
  • Negotiating with creditors
  • Advice on amalgamations and closures
  • Charitable and trust requirements
  • Merger and acquisition opportunities
  • Due diligence for schools considering a M&A
  • Securing equity funding

For help with all aspects of financial advice and legal support, please contact us.

Workplace stress is causing more than half of senior leaders to consider quitting

Workplace stress is causing more than half of senior leaders to consider quitting

A poll of school business leaders has revealed that more than half are considering quitting education because of workplace stress.

The research, carried out by school leaders’ union, the NAHT found that 56 per cent of respondents were thinking of leaving in the next three years, quoting ‘workplace stress’ as the biggest factor.

73 per cent of respondents felt that in the past year their job has had a negative impact on the quality of their family or personal life.

Worryingly, there would appear to be a shortage of suitable qualified candidates to take over, as the research also highlighted only 3 per cent of respondents felt there were sufficient suitable applicants to choose from, based on their recruitment experiences over the past three years.

Announcing the findings, which were published at the Institute of School Business Leadership (ISBL) annual conference, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT, said: “The education sector is potentially facing a huge loss in skill and knowledge when our current school business leaders leave or retire, and the Government has done nothing to secure a strong pipeline for these crucial roles.

“The Government does not have a strong understanding of this part of the profession, or the career path leading to school business leadership, with limited data gathered through the school workforce statistics, so the problem is largely hidden.

“An effective and holistic strategy for the SBL profession is required, one which focuses not just on recruitment but retention as well.

“The Government must recognise that school business professionals are under more pressure than ever before, which in turn is impacting on wellbeing.”

Mr Whiteman continued: “In the face of immense challenges, school business leaders have played a key role in helping schools deliver all that has been asked of them.

“The stress of trying to keep things going in schools this year cannot be underestimated.

“The decade-long school funding freeze has led to increasing financial pressure on schools, and it is school business leaders who are required to balance the books.

“The Covid pandemic has only exacerbated this financial pressure, with tens of thousands of pounds of additional costs and lost income.”

Samantha Randall, an Associate with Palmers Solicitors and an employment law expert, said: “Mental health is now a massive issue in the workplace. Employers and senior school leaders need to ensure that they provide all members of staff with the optimum conditions where they feel they do not need to hide issues they are facing.”

For professional and independent advice on any aspect of employment law, please contact us.