Irwin Mitchell | Focus on Education | News in brief

High court backs father who refused to pay fine for term-time holiday

The High Court has said that a father who took his child out of school for a seven day holiday did not commit a criminal offence and found that parents whose children attended school “regularly” could be allowed family absences. The Department for Education (DfE) has said that its zero tolerance approach to attendance is “non-negotiable” and has indicated that it may change the law to close, what it considers to be, a loophole. It also plans to strengthen statutory guidance to schools and local authorities. Read more on the case on the BBCwebsite here.

Enquiry into sexual violence in schools

A Commons committee will look into the scale of sexual harassment and sexual violence in England’s schools following fears that the number of cases are rising and that sexualised behaviour among pupils is a social norm. In September 2015, a BBC News report based on freedom of information requests revealed there were 5,500 sexual offences recorded in UK schools between 2011 and 2014. Within these figures, there were 4,000 alleged physical sexual assaults and more than 600 rapes, according to the information from UK police forces. Read the findings in more detail here.

Controversial safeguarding rules may be scrapped

The DfE has launched a consultation on disqualification by association rules which currently require staff working with young children to apply to Ofsted for a waiver if they live with anyone with spent convictions for certain types of crime. Three options are proposed:

  1. Exempting schools
  2. Introducing a right to make representations to Ofsted before disqualification takes effect
  3. Reducing the scope of the rules.

It has been reported that no applications have been rejected since the guidelines changed.

Government’s £8 million academy and free school bail out

Freedom of information figures show that since 2013-14 the DfE has paid out a total of £8.2m in deficit funding to help schools balance their books. The largest single payment of £700,000 was made to The Business Academy Bexley, one of the first flagship academies.

Mental health champion for UK schools axed after criticising Government

The Government has ended its partnership with Natasha Devon, its mental health champion for schools, after she publicly criticised current education policies, in particular the testing regime, which Devon claimed is detrimental to children’s mental health. The Guardian coversthis in more detail here.

ACAS report highlights increase in bullying

ACAS says that its helpline took over 20,000 calls last year on bullying and harassment and believes that this might mean that workplace bullying is on the increase. A public debate will begin on workplace bullying to help identify better solutions and ACAS is considering introducing a new code of practice on unwanted behaviour in the workplace - Workplace Trends 2016.

Advice on potential employment implications of Brexit

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has published advice, written by Michael Ford QC, on the potential implications of Brexit on employment and health and safety law. The advice states: “All the social rights in employment currently required by EU law would be potentially vulnerable” and that there would be years of uncertainty for workers and employers if the UK votes to leave the European Union. You can read more on TUC’s website.

Flexible hiring could help improve performance

A report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in a study of 3.5 million job advertisements found that only 6.2% of vacancies for “quality” jobs (those paying at least £10.63 per hour) were advertised with options to work flexibly. This rate was considered to be the amount parents, older people and disabled people need to earn to meet basic minimum income standards. It found a wide gap between flexible working (which is widely available) and flexible hiring (which is relatively rare). The report suggests that this cuts employers off from a proportion of the skilled market and is particularly damaging for those sectors with skills shortages such as IT and engineering. You can read the full report on Joseph Roundtree Foundation’swebsite.