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School Policies & Procedures
Governing bodies, or proprietors of independent schools and academies, are required to hold and follow various school policies and procedures. According to statutory guidance, in some instances certain school policies, examples of which are covered in this guidance, must be in place, whereas others are optional and at the discretion of the governors or proprietors.
Academies and free schools are allowed greater freedom than maintained schools when it comes to the list of school policies and procedures they are required to have in place. Public school policies will usually be more extensive.
It is imperative that school policies and procedures are kept up to date and, even if there is no statutory requirement to review them, that they are revisited regularly and any new policies added as required.
Why are school policies and procedures important?
Secondary and primary school policies and procedures are designed to provide governors, parents, staff, Ofsted inspectors and Local Education Authority officers with an instant picture of the principles of the school. They allow standards to be raised and values to be communicated clearly.
The policies a school should have will cover pupil welfare and safeguarding, teaching and learning practices and staff matters. A school policy has the objective of supporting staff in managing certain situations which include health and welfare issues, behaviour and discrimination, amongst many others. It will form an important framework for the school that will ensure consistency in applying values and principles throughout the establishment.
School policies are also important in respect of attracting prospective pupils, staff and governors. For example, a parent of a prospective pupil may enquire as to school policies on e-safety, cyberbullying and social media if they are concerned about stories they have read in the media or if their child has previously experienced an issue of this nature, before accepting a place at the school. A potential new member of staff may request a list of school policies that are concerned with staff development and welfare ahead of deciding whether to accept a position.
How and by whom are school policies created?
Any member of school staff can be given responsibility for the drafting of school policies, and not all of them need to be signed off by the full governing body.
The first step to creating a primary or high school policy and procedures manual is to appoint a team responsible for the task.
A good school policy will have a clear target audience. This could be pupils, parents, teachers, support staff or governors. They should be written in such a way that the audience understands the requirements. For example, if writing primary school policies on behaviour, fighting or violence, the language used should be appropriate for the primary age range. Quality policies will be informative, unambiguous and concise as well as up to date and will clearly communicate the underlying principles which should be established as one of the first steps in their creation.
Once a school policy is drafted, the next step is to consult all the parties who would have an interest in it. For example, when creating a school policy and procedures for athletic training, it would be appropriate to consult with the PE teaching staff, and when compiling school policies concerning pupil health such as head lice, pink eye and hepatitis b, liaising with health professionals such as the school nurse will assist in ensuring the policy is relevant.
After the consultation process, any required reviews should be made to the draft policy before submitting, where required by law, to the full Governing Body for approval. In some cases this is not required and approval can instead be delegated to a member of school staff, a committee or an individual governor.
It is important that each school policy is monitored for effectiveness once it has been adopted, and its impact regularly reviewed.
Which school policies are statutory?
There is a list of school policies required by law. These policies include:
- The school admissions policy
- The charging policy
- The child protection policy
- The complaints policy and procedures
- The curriculum policy
- Equal opportunities policies
- The health and safety policy
- The teachers’ pay and conditions policy
- Performance management policies
- A school behaviour policy
- School policies on bullying
- A sex education policy
- The special educational needs (SEN) report
- Staff discipline, conduct, capability and grievance procedures
Which school policies and procedures need to be approved by the full governing body?
The Department for Education (DfE) stipulates that certain school policies and documents are required by law to be approved by the full Governing Body and that in these cases, approval cannot be delegated.
In maintained schools, the admissions policy, the instrument of government and the staff discipline, conduct and grievance policies must be approved by the full Governing Body. In both maintained schools and academies, full body approval is required on the special educational needs policy; the child protection policy and documents; the supporting pupils with medical conditions policy and the full Governing Body meeting minutes.
How and when should school policies be reviewed?
In some cases school policies will need to be regularly reviewed in a certain way, but this does not apply to all of them and sometimes the Head Teacher or Governing Body are free to determine the frequency of review.
The special educational needs (SEN) report; teachers’ pay policy; the admissions policy; the child protection policy and in some cases the Early Years Foundation Stage policy are all required to be reviewed annually.
The data protection policy must be reviewed at least every two years, and the accessibility plan every three years. Any school information published on a website must be updated as soon as possible after there is an amendment, and at least on an annual basis.
It is good practice to set a review date for each policy as it is approved. If monitoring processes suggest it is necessary, it may be that a governing body decides to bring the review forward.
Some policies will require more frequent reviews than others, for example a school ICT policy should be reviewed regularly in line with evolving technology.
A review should consider how well the policy has supported other associated policies. For example, has a school policy of cell phones impacted positively on a school behaviour policy? The review process should also incorporate consultation with those affected by the policy, for example staff, parents and pupils, and should look at whether the policy achieved its objectives, and whether those objectives are still relevant.
What school policies should be displayed on the school’s website?
There are certain school policies that must, under the School Information (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 be published on the school’s website. These include the school admissions policy, the curriculum policy, a school behaviour policy; the special educational needs report and charging and remissions policies. Paper copies of the information published must be made available to parents on request without charge.
How should school policies be communicated to pupils and parents?
Secondary and primary school policies and procedures can be communicated to pupils and parents using a range of methods. A current school policy handbook should be created and distributed to parents of existing and incoming pupils at the beginning of each school year.
Some policies are required by law to be displayed on the school’s website, but there is nothing to stop a school publishing their full set of policies and procedures online so that parents and staff have continuous access to the most recent versions of all the individual policies. This will deal with any outdated issues with school policies that are amended during the school year.
It is important to communicate school policies to pupils using methods that are readily understood. A set of written rules may well be suitable for high school students, but when it comes to communicating primary school policies and procedures, a more appropriate approach would be to use and display a series of pictures or easy to follow signs. Teaching staff can assist by taking time to explain the policies using clear language and inviting any questions to ensure the pupils have understood the policies.
What are the different types of school policies?
There are numerous school policies and procedures and the list of school policies continues to grow as new issues or developments arise. For example, it was not very long ago that school policies on e-safety, cyber bullying, e-cigarettes, cell phones and social media did not exist, but of course now these are very important.
School policies can be categorised as follows:
- Health related policies, e.g. school policies for head lice, pink eye, bed bugs and hepatitis b together with general sickness
- Behaviour related policies, e.g. school policies on bullying, fighting, cheating, plagiarism, e-cigarettes and tardy to school
- Learning related policies, e.g. a whole school policy for literacy, athletic training, and PE
- Technology and safeguarding related policies, e.g. school policies on e-safety, mobile phones, ICT and social media
- Diversity policies, e.g. school policies for transgender students, on religion, race and special educational needs
Advice on drafting and implementing school policies and procedures
HCB Solicitors are nationally regarded experts in English and Welsh education law and regularly advise schools and governing bodies on the drafting, implementation, monitoring and review of effective and legally sound school policies and procedures. For specialised advice tailored to the needs of your individual school, please get in touch.
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