This Education Update comments on :
- Recent case considers local authority duties relating to Learning Difficulty Assessments
- January 2015 Revised Exclusions Guidance
- DfE Consultation on revisions to "Working together to safeguard children"
- School Admissions Code 2014 now in force
- New School Food Standards in force
Case considers local authority duties relating to Learning Difficulty Assessments
In R (Smieja by her father & litigation friend Smieja) v Bexley LBC  EWHC 4113 the High Court rejected an appeal against a local authority, where the recommendations in a Learning Difficulty Assessment ("LDA") were not followed. In this case, a young girl with high functioning autism had a LDA that recommended a specific course in another borough. The local authority instead chose a different local course which they believed to be more appropriate, and which would enable the girl to reach her independent potential in the local community.
The court found that, unlike with a SEN statement, there was no statutory duty for the authority to arrange a course specified in a LDA. Further, in this case it was noted that the authority had taken the evidence into account before making their decision and there was a rational explanation for their choice.
This case highlights that a LDA provides a young person with weaker legal rights than if they had a SEN statement. That will change as more young people move to EHC plans, with enforceable education and health provisions as well as rights of appeal to the tribunal.
January 2015 Revised Exclusions Guidance
As of 5 January 2015, DfE revised guidance for local authorities, school leaders and governing bodies in maintained schools, pupil referral units academies and free schools on exclusion will apply.
There has been some negative commentary suggesting the revised position gives too much discretion to heads to remove problematic children. An example of a change from the 2012 guidance is that the 2012 guidance provided that a decision to permanently exclude should only be taken where allowing the pupil to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school. The 2015 guidance states that it is for the head to decide whether a child's behaviour warrants permanent exclusion, though this is a serious decision and should be reserved for where a pupil's behaviour means allowing the pupil to remain in school would be detrimental to the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school.
It is understood that Just For Kids Law may have issued a judicial review challenge against the education secretary, Nicky Morgan, on the basis that the changes have been introduced without consultation and that they have removed the advice that exclusions should only be used as a last resort.
In the meantime local authorities, academies and maintained schools should ensure that they are familiar with the terms of the new guidance.
The DfE consultation on revisions to ‘Working together to safeguard children’
The DfE launched a consultation on 6 January 2015 seeking views on revisions to the 2013 statutory guidance ‘Working together to safeguard children’. The consultation closes on 3 February, and can be found here:
Key proposed changes include:
1. That referrals relating to concerns about a child and allegations against those who work with children are coordinated through a single point of contact.
2. Those managing allegations against those working with children to be qualified social workers.
3. An obligation to be placed on local authorities to put in place arrangements to provide advice and guidance on how to deal with allegations against those who work with children, and to ensure appropriate arrangements are in place to effectively liaise with the police and other agencies to monitor the progress of cases.
4. To set out as a statutory requirement the circumstances in which a local authority must notify Ofsted of a 'notifiable incident.
5. To clarify what LSCBs should consider constitutes serious harm to a child as a result of abuse or neglect for the purposes of initiating Serious Case Reviews.
School Admissions Code 2014 now in force
The School Admissions Code 2014 came into force 19 December 2014. This revises and replaces the School Admissions Code 2012.
The Code allows all state-funded schools and related nurseries to give priority in their admission arrangements to children eligible for early years pupil premium, pupil premium or service premium funding.
Further changes include amending the timetable by which admission arrangements must be consulted upon, determined and published by admission authorities, and the timetable for resolving disputes regarding the lawfulness of admission arrangements through objections to the Independent Schools Adjudicator. The Code also clarifies the provisions relating to the admission of summer born children whose parents wish to delay entry into reception.
New School Food Standards - January 2015
The Requirements for School Food Regulations 2014 came into force on 1st January 2015, requiring maintained schools, academies and free schools to be subject to new standards for food and drink. The regulations also make provision for maintained nurseries. Requirements prescribe for the mixture of food types to be provided, and makes requirements for food provided up to 6pm. The regulations will therefore cover food provided on school premises, any food provided at after school clubs, from vending machines and farm school shops.
The regulations also require that schools provide free fresh drinking water at all times, with only certain other drinks being permitted.
Schools should ensure they have checked that they meet the requirements, and liaise with their catering providers and suppliers as appropriate to ensure that any necessary changes to service specifications are agreed to ensure compliance. Whilst there are no enforcement provisions set out in the regulations, it is likely that this may be revisited when compliance with the implementation of these regulations is reviewed.
Guidance on implementation can be found: http://www.schoolfoodplan.com/standards/.