Irwin Mitchell | Focus on Education | Spring 2016 - News in Brief

Statistics show school bullying decline

A Government study shows that, compared to 2005, 30,000 fewer children are being bullied in England’s schools. The Government attributes the decline to the introduction in 2010 of new powers for teachers to help them tackle bullying and violence in schools, including training in tackling serious behaviour issues and new powers to search pupils.

Spending watchdog confirms teacher shortage is increasing

Teacher shortages in England are growing and the Government has missed recruitment targets for four years, the official spending watchdog has said. The report by the National Audit Office indicates that 28% of secondary physics lessons are taught by teachers with no more than an A-level in the subject.

It found that more than half (54%) of head teachers in schools with large proportions of disadvantaged pupils find attracting and keeping good teachers is “a major problem”, compared with a third (33%) of those in other schools.

Large employers liable to an apprenticeship levy of 0.5% of their payroll from 2017

The Chancellor in his recent spending review announced that large employers (those with a wage bill of £3 million or more) will have to commit to spend 0.5% of their payroll on funding apprenticeships from April 2017. The Government estimates that this will affect less than 2% of UK employers. You can find more details on this topic on page 9.

Call for ‘common sense’ approach to term time holidays

The Local Government Association (LGA) has recommended the law be changed so that head teachers can give reasonable consideration to term-time leave requests. There have been a number of successful legal challenges to the legislation and it is seen as becoming harder to enforce.

In addition, absence statistics show just a 0.1% rise in pupil absences from state-funded schools since the previous academic year to 4.5% in autumn/spring 2014/15 (4% in primary and 5.2% in secondary). Persistent absence rates have followed a general downward trend since autumn/spring 2010/11, and the percentage of pupils who are, or may become, persistent absentees across state-funded primary and secondary schools has decreased from 4.1% to 3.9% last year.

DoE admits its GCSE and A-level reforms could disadvantage SEN pupils

A report by the DoE indicates that reforms to GCSE and A Levels due to come into force in September will disadvantage some SEN students. Pupils with dyscalculia “will potentially be disadvantaged” from succeeding in Stem subjects, which require strong mathematics skills.

New e-safety website launched to prevent radicalisation

The Government has launched the Education Against Hate, to support schools and parents identify and deal with the risks of young people becoming radicalised. Find out more at

Only eight financial penalties ordered

Since 2014, Tribunals have been able to impose financial penalties of up to £5,000 on employers who breach workers’ rights where there is some form of “aggravating conduct”. Despite this, only eight penalties have been ordered and of these six remain unpaid.

Recruitment is not ‘name blind’

The Government has announced that a number of large private and public sector organisations (who together employ 1.8 million employees in the UK) have committed to name-blind recruitment processes following research which showed that people with “white sounding” names are nearly twice as likely to get call-backs as those with “ethnic sounding” names. This means that applicants’ names will not be visible on application forms. It is hoped that this step will help improve diversity.

Grandparents to get shared parental leave The Government has announced that the right to take shared parental leave will be extended to grandparents. It is not yet known if mothers will only be able to select one person to share the leave with (which would be relatively straightforward if this simply included the option of selecting a grandparent rather than their partner) or if grandparents can be chosen as well as the partner (which would be extremely complicated and potentially involve three different employers).

Zero hours guidance published

The Government has published guidance for employers on the use of zero hours contracts which sets out when they should, or should not, be used. Employers are not obliged to follow this.