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New Year tasks to face with resolve!

Posted on: 24 Jan 2014
Posted by: Matthew Burgess

As 2014 gets into its stride, the Independent Schools Magazine asked Independent Schools Council General Secretary Matthew Burgess to reflect to some of the issues facing the sector. He came up with quite a list...

  1. Check out the new safeguarding guidance from DfE, due out any day and scheduled for implementation in January. This is slated to replace the bursar's bible, "Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education" and whilst consultation drafts of the new guidance did not disclose any new requirements, schools due for inspection next term would be wise to ensure that their safeguarding policy references the latest guidance. Expect a greater focus on professional misconduct decisions of NCTL, which can be searched prior to employment on the Employer Access microsite of the main DfE website. And make sure your staff induction processes explicitly note that it is an offence for a person over the age of 18 and in a position of trust to have a sexual relationship with a child under 18, even if the relationship is consensual.
    1. Clerks to the governors of charitable schools should make sure that public benefit is on the agenda of at least one governors' meeting each year. The governors should review all aspects of the school's public benefit, including opportunities for children who are not pupils to benefit from the work of the school. And remember that the school's annual return to the Charity Commission requires a statement of aims and objectives for the following year - hence governors need to review and agree this in advance.
    2. And whilst you are drawing up those agendas, make sure to find time for the annual review of safeguarding policies and procedures. It's important for the full board of governors to receive and consider the review, which can be carried out by an individual governor, and implement any recommendations promptly.
    3. Send one of your senior staff to the free event on 20 January on the Independent State School Partnership scheme. You will have an opportunity to meet and hear from other participants and find out more about what makes a partnership successful.
    4. For Tier 4 schools, make sure that you are asking about the nationality of all new pupils on registration or offer, and taking copies of all relevant visas, even for those children you are not sponsoring. Tier 4 sponsor guidance now places the responsibility on you to ensure that all pupils from outside the EEA have the right permissions to study with you.
    5. And, as a Tier 4 school, once you have finished reviewing your pupil admission processes, diarise the renewal of your Highly Trusted Status, likely to be around March/April. Remember that HTS renewal is currently an annual requirement, unlike the renewal of your Tier 4 licence which is every four years.
    6. For schools with porous boundaries, have a look at the DfE advice on safety considerations for perimeter security. Inspectors will expect that a school is aware of any security issues and undertakes appropriate reviews, particularly where there are changes in the school site, buildings or pupil makeup.
    7. Look out for consultations in the New Year on revisions to the Independent School Standards regulations. It's possible that an additional standard on governance, leadership and management will be consulted on - and whilst ISI inspections already consider these aspects, we would be concerned if their approach needed to change as a result of increased regulation in this area. Expect also minor revisions to bring the standards into line with DBS practice, particularly clarification that governors who are not in regulated activity cannot be subjected to barred list checks.
    8. And whilst thinking about checks on staff, reflect on whether there are any gaps in the school's processes which might allow unchecked temporary or casual staff to commence work without appropriate checks being carried out and recorded in the single central register. Does your keeper of the register always know who the music or sports department has arranged to bring on site?
    9. Review your reasonable adjustments policy to make sure that all those involved in admissions know how to identify pupils with disabilities and what additional aids and services might be required to be offered free of charge to meet their needs. Use the ISC decision tree to help with these decisions.

Look out for the release in the New Year of ISC's commissioned research on the contribution of the independent schools sector to the British economy. ISC have asked respected consultancy Oxford Economics to put a value on the sector's activities, including the savings to the taxpayer represented by the educational provision for half a million children and the impact on GDP of the high educational attainment of independent-school graduates.

First published in Independent Schools Magazine.

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About Matthew Burgess

Independent Schools Council - General Secretary