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Education Update July 2014

This Education Update comments on:

  • New 'Requirements for School Food Regulations 2014'
  • Test case against the DfE on the authorisation of term time holidays - the saga continues
  • Forthcoming legal and regulatory changes, including requirements relating to "British Values"
  • Changes to the Teachers' Disciplinary Regulations


New 'Requirements for School Food Regulations 2014'

From January 2015 maintained schools, academies and PRUs that provide food to pupils must comply with the Requirements for School Food Regulations 2014.

The Regulations group foods into categories and outline the frequency with which the particular groups of food should be provided to pupils at lunchtime. There are also provisions for meals that are provided at times other than lunchtime; for example evening meals provided by boarding schools, and meals provided on school trips.

Drinking water must be provided free of charge on school premises and new limitations have been placed on the ingredients/nutritional values of some products, such as milk.

Schools may want to revisit their contracts with catering companies, and in particular the service schedules, to ensure that the provision reflects the new requirements.

The Regulations can be accessed here

Test Case against the DfE - term time holiday authorisation

A parent will appear in court this month in a test case against the DfE, in relation to the controversial amendment to the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 relating to the discretion of head teachers to grant term time holiday.

The new position provides that leave may only be granted (following an application by a parent) in "exceptional circumstances", whereas previously head teachers had discretion to grant leave in "special circumstances" for up to 10 days per school year. Whilst it could be argued that there is little difference to be found in the words 'special' and 'exceptional' (neither being explicitly defined), the new DfE guidance specifically comments that a request for leave is unlikely to qualify as "exceptional" where this is for the purposes of a family holiday.

This case seeks permission for judicial review of the government crackdown on term time holidays. It will be argued that the decision to prosecute a parent for taking his children abroad for a family member's memorial service breaches the right to a family life. Many will watch this case with interest.

Clearly the practical application of this rule is under the spotlight, and head teachers are in an unenviable position. The issue continues to attract arguments as to which factors should be taken into account by schools when considering applications from parents, including a recent appeal by a Police Chief to look favourably on requests by police officers, on the basis that they are often unable to take time off during school holidays.

Without further assistance as to how the new position should be interpreted, head teachers will be conscious of the potential for scrutiny by inspectors (as well as the national press), whilst in some cases facing significant pressure from parents. There may be merit in having a clear and consistent policy at school, even if this is only used internally, to minimise any suggestion of unfairness or discrimination by parents. Care should be exercised when considering the basis on which applications will be determined, bearing in mind for example that objective factors will always be easier to justify.

Forthcoming legal and regulatory changes, including requirements relating to "British values"

On 23rd June 2014 the DfE launched a consultation on the new Education (Independent Schools Standards) (England) Regulations 2014 (amending the 2010 regulations), which include provisions relating to the promotion of "British values". The revised Regulations are due to come into force in the Autumn term.

Whilst these Regulations govern independent schools, all bar Part 1 (quality of education provisions) equally apply to academies and free schools. Further, it is understood that Ofsted will impose similar regulatory requirements later this year for the maintained sector.

The amendments include a requirement on the proprietor to actively promote fundamental British values (listed as democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs). The consultation document highlights that this requirement goes beyond putting up posters on notice boards, or organising visits to various places of worship, and that schools should focus on and be able to demonstrate how their work with pupils is effective in embedding fundamental British values. This will involve challenging pupils, staff or parents expressing opinions contrary to such values.

The Standard relating to welfare, health and safety of students has been strengthened by a requirement that a written risk assessment policy is drawn up and effectively implemented, and that appropriate action is taken to reduce any identified risks. The DfE will also be able to take regulatory action where policies are in place but practical implementation is poor.

The draft regulations include a new section relating to 'Quality of leadership and management of schools', and the regulations themselves are drafted in broad terms. The DfE commentary on this section notes that this standard will allow the Secretary of State to take action where there are concerns about safeguarding, extremism or persistent minor failings which stem from poor management.

Changes to the Teachers' Disciplinary Regulations

The Teachers' Disciplinary (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2014 (relating to the procedures for deciding whether to bar a teacher), will come into force on 1 September 2014, and amend the earlier 2012 Regulations as follows:

  • Amend the criteria for teacher members of conduct panels, such that they must have been a teacher for 5 years prior to being generally appointed as a member of such panels.
  • Clarifies that no party can be required to produce evidence which would go beyond the standard of civil proceedings.
  • Make provision for the service of notice of Prohibition Orders.