This is the latest in our series of quarterly education update blogs which will enable readers to catch up on the most important cases, issues or developments in education law from August to October 2016. Please feel free to submit a comment below or send us an Ask query if you have any views on the cases, issues, or legal developments that are covered or if you think we have missed something that should be brought to the attention of education law practitioners.
In this post, we look at:
- Recent case law.
- Legislative developments.
- Government consultations.
- Government guidance and policy statements.
Recent case law
High Court quashes Welsh council’s decision on school re-organisation (Jones v Denbighshire County Council)
On 12 August 2016, the High Court quashed Denbighshire County Council’s (council) decision to implement a proposal to close two maintained primary schools in its area and establish a new voluntary controlled primary school on the two sites from 1 September 2017.
The claimant challenged the proposal on the grounds that the council had failed to take into account a material consideration, namely the language and community impact of the council’s preferred option to create a new school ultimately on a single site. The claimant also argued that the consultation process was flawed because the consultation document:
- Was inconsistent and unclear about the scope of the consultation exercise so that consultees could not respond intelligently to it.
- Failed properly to explain what was meant by a “dual stream Category 2 school”, which, it was proposed, the new school would be.
- Did not give the consultees an opportunity to suggest alternative options to that which was proposed, contrary to the School Organisation Code published by Welsh Ministers.
The court held that these grounds were made good and quashed the council’s decision on procedural grounds only. The court said that it was open to the council to reconsider the matter, lawfully, in the light of the guidance given by the court in its judgment. The case is a reminder of the care that must be taken when formulating and consulting upon proposals for school re-organisation.
The following legislative developments took place between August and October 2016:
- The Designation of Rural Primary Schools (England) Order 2016 came into force on 10 October 2016.
- On 1 September 2016, the Education and Adoption Act 2016 (Commencement No 2) Regulations 2016 were made. They brought section 1 of the Education and Adoption Act 2016 into force on 5 September 2016, for the purposes of making regulations which define “coasting schools”.
- On 4 August 2016, the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Order 2016 was made.
The following consultations have been published:
- On 12 September 2016, the Department for Education published a consultation seeking views on the proposals aimed at creating a school system that will ensure children from all backgrounds have access to good school places. The consultation sets out the government’s ambition to build an education system that extends opportunity to all, by expanding the number of good school places and giving schools that have a strong track record incentives to expand their offer to more pupils. The consultation closes on 12 December 2016.
- On 11 August 2016, the Department for Education published a consultation on its proposals to change the way that it funds free childcare and early years education.
Government guidance and policy statements
On 5 October 2016, the Department for Education published guidance for local authorities interested in commissioning a special free school. The guidance sets out, for local authorities and new school proposers, how the process for local authorities to identify and advertise any new special free school they wish to commission will work in practice.
On 5 October 2016, the House of Commons Library published a briefing paper discussing the origin, progress and future of University Technical Colleges (UTCs). UTCs are technical schools for 14-19 year olds, working alongside employers and universities, introduced under the Coalition Government. They operate as a type of academy, with relevant freedoms such as not having to follow the national curriculum, or employ teachers with qualified teacher status.
On 30 September 2016, the House of Commons Library published a briefing paper on the government’s intentions in respect of grammar schools in England.
On 20 September 2016, the Department for Education published non-statutory advice for employers, governing bodies, school leaders and staff in maintained schools and academies. It provides advice on keeping schools open on strike days, and explains the law on trade disputes and picketing. It also deals with other issues such as staff deployment, health and safety requirements, using volunteers, delivering the curriculum, examinations and contingency planning.
On 5 September 2016, the Department for Education published new statutory guidance on children missing education. The new statutory guidance sets out key principles to enable local authorities in England to implement their legal duty under section 436A of the Education Act 1996. It is aimed at local authorities but can be used as non-statutory advice by maintained schools, academies, independent schools, health professionals, youth offending teams and the police.
On 11 August 2016, the House of Commons Library published a briefing paper answering frequently asked questions about academies and free schools in England.