The current legislation affects the way schools work, as every educational setting needs to fully comply with all the relevant legal requirements. As these laws and codes of practice change frequently, schools may need to seek advice and support which would be via the governing body. As I described in the previous assessment, there are laws and agreements enacting the welfare of all pupils in the school setting and at home with their families. These laws are produced and implemented in order to protect children and the people who work with children. In fact, they ensure their safety and make sure their rights are respected. Legislation affects every educational setting in numerous ways; consequently, all schools are obliged to operate under current legislation. However, laws that affect schools are changed regularly and it is the school’s responsibility to stay updated on the changes and implement them.
The ways school legislation impacts teaching and learning, are summarised below.
United Nations Convention on Rights of Child 1989:
It is made up of 54 articles covering rights to survival, protection, and development of children. It can be summarised by saying it protects children from any form of discrimination. In fact, children have the right to know and access the relevant information about themselves; they have an equal right to education, a right to privacy, the freedom to practice their own beliefs and come together and enjoy as groups. They also have the right to express their views and feelings. Children with disabilities have a right to lead full and independent lives and they have a say in the decisions that affect them. This legislation has a major impact on schools as it bounds the staff and teachers to listen to what the child has to say. The articles of this convention that directly apply to schools are listed as:
Article 2: children have a right to protection from any form of discrimination;
Article 3: the best interests of the child are the primary consideration;
Article 12: children are entitled to express their views, which should be given consideration in keeping with the child’s age and maturity;
Article 13: children have a right to receive and share information as long as that information is not damaging to others;
Article 14: children have a right to freedom of religion, although they should also be free to examine their beliefs;
Article 28: all children have an equal right to education;
Article 29: children’s education should develop each child’s personality, talents and abilities to the fullest.
Human Rights 1998:
This Act makes the European Convention on Human Rights into a law in the UK, allowing violations of the Convention to be dealt with in the UK. It does not only ensure the basic human rights that are matters of life and death like freedom from torture and killing, but also the rights and basic entitlements we have in the everyday life. A key provision of the Act states: “It is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right.” The articles which have a direct link with schools are:
Article 2 of Part II: the right to education;
Article 8: the right to respect for private and family life;
Article 10: the right to freedom of expression.
This means that a teacher cannot just make a decision about a child on their own just because he/she is the adult. They must always respect the wishes of the child. This law gives children and young people a voice and control over their lives. It empowers children and brings in confidence. However, it can be used by a child in a negative way; teachers may find it hard to discipline a child and to deal with a behavioural problem. That is where the code of practice should come in as a useful tool for dealing with a particular situation.
Restraint of pupils is also permitted under the Act, to prevent the rights of others or to prevent crime or injury, but the schools and the Local Authorities have their own policy related to this matter.
Education Act 2002 and 2006:
This Act brought in changes to school regulations, staffing and governance and was amended in 2006 to include the promotion of community cohesion. This means that all schools need to play a full part in promoting a sense of community. Every school should be a thriving, cohesive community, but it also has a vital part to play in building a more cohesive society. Every school is responsible for educating children and young people who live and work in a country which is diverse in terms of culture, faith, ethnicity and social backgrounds. The staff and pupil populations of some schools reflect this diversity, allowing pupils to mix with those from different backgrounds.
Children Act 1989 and 2004:
The Children Act 2004 is an updated version of the Children Act 1989. The Children Act 1989 allocated duties to Local Authorities, courts, parents and other agencies to ensure children are safeguarded and their welfare is promoted. It centres on the idea that a child’s welfare is paramount and comes before everything else. The law suggests that professionals should work in partnerships with parents at every stage. In fact, this Act introduces multi agency approach to safeguarding children. Detailed information regarding this approach is available in the Working Together Document. The idea behind the Act is to promote co-ordination between multiple organisations to improve the overall well-being of children, including those with disabilities and special needs. This Act promotes the achievement of the five outcomes of the Every Child Matters’ framework, that are: stay safe; be healthy; enjoy and achieve; make a positive contribution and achieve economic well-being. This legislation has a huge impact on every educational setting and on the way they address issues of care, welfare and discipline. The work of teachers and every member of the schools’ support staff has been directly affected by this Act and they need to have training or guidance in its full implementation.
Childcare Act 2006:
This Act aimed to improving the well-being of young children by imposing the duty on the Local Authorities to improve the Every Child Matters outcomes for the pre-school age group. The act also puts an emphasis on the importance of safeguarding children and young people within an educational setting where there are policies in place to deal with the disclosure of child abuse and neglect. Therefore, under the Childcare Act 2006 more responsibility was placed on Local Authorities to:
• Improve children’s well-being and reduce inequalities;
• Ensure adequate provision for childcare to enable parents to work;
• Supply relevant childcare information for parents;
• Guarantee that all childcare providers are fully trained;
• Introduce the Early Years Foundation Stage to all children under 5 years of age;
• Provide two new registers of childcare providers which are ran by Ofsted.
Data Protection Act 1998:
This Act ensures the confidential handling of personal data about pupils and their families. Only information relevant to the child’s education is to be stored in the school and it must be in a locked cabinet or password protected computer files. If the information is electronic it should be on password-protected computers. This legislation bounds all educational settings to use this information only for the purpose it was collected and not share it with unauthorised people. It affects schools and every member of staff in many ways. As teaching assistants, we must make sure that pupils’ information is confidential and if it needs to be shared with adults working with a particular pupil (e.g. a speech therapist), we need to seek parental consent.
The Data Protection Act 1998 will be very soon replaced by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) introduced to unify all EU member states’ approaches to data regulation, ensuring all data protection laws are applied identically in every country within the EU. The new regulation will protect all EU citizens from organisations using their data irresponsibly. The GDPR is due to come into force on 25 May 2018 and even though the UK is due to leave Europe in the next 12 months, it will still apply to all businesses handling EU residents’ data, effectively replacing the Data Protection Act 1998.
Freedom of Information 2000:
Thsis Act provides individuals with the right to access, check and correct any information that is stored about them at an institution. This was introduced in January 2000 to simplify and make this information easier to access. Although anyone can request information held by a school, it must be done in writing and schools have the duty to provide advice and assistance, whilst ensuring protection of confidentiality. Therefore, anyone can make a written request for information being held by a school, which has a duty to provide assistance. Schools need to follow the guidance provided by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) when handling requests for information.
Disability Discrimination Act 2005:
The aim of this Act is to deliver equality of opportunity to disabled people. In education it means the recognition of diversity and learner differences amongst pupils and the reduction to barriers for learning for disabled people. The Disability Discrimination Act and the subsequent legislation, prescribe that any school have to make provisions for disabled pupils including ramps, toilets and if required lifts. Schools built before the act are not obliged to alter their buildings unless they have had any modifications or extensions built.
Special Educational Needs Code of Practice 2001:
Under the SEN code of practice, children with special educational needs and disabilities have increased rights to mainstream education. It sets out the processes and procedures that schools should follow to meet the needs of SEN children. This has had an impact on the number of SEN being included in public schools and the number of individual support assistants. The code of practice “gives guidance to early education settings, state schools, local authorities and anybody else who helps to identify, assess and provide help for children with special educational needs.”
Equality Act 2010:
This legislation has the same goals as the four major EU Equal Treatment Directives, whose provisions it mirrors and implements. It requires equal treatment in access to employment as well as private and public services, regardless of the protected characteristics of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. It protects the children and staff from being discriminated. It also extends protection to pupils who are pregnant, have recently given birth or who are undergoing gender reassignment. The Act makes it unlawful for the responsible body of a school to discriminate against, harass or victimise a pupil in relation to admissions, in the way it provides education, in the way it provides pupils access to any benefit, facility or service, or by excluding a pupil or subjecting them to any other detriment. Teachers must make sure that children with disabilities or additional needs are also included in and have access to all activities so there is no form of discrimination (gov.uk ‘Equality Act 2010’).
Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999:
The health and safety of children is of paramount importance. According to the Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, every educational setting should be safe and healthy for children, parents, staff and volunteers. By assessing and reducing the hazards and risks, the members of school’s staff will enable the children to thrive in a healthy and safe environment. In fact, all people have the right to be protected from work related risks. This Act “set the standards that must be met to ensure the health and safety of all employees and others who may be affected by any work activity.”
The Education and Inspections Act 2006:
The Act is intended to represent a major step in ensuring that all children in every school get the education they need to enable them to fulfil their potential. The Act provides greater freedoms to schools, including the possibility of owning their own assets, employing their own staff, setting their own admissions arrangements, etc. This law gives Local Authorities more responsibility for managing schools. Section 89 provides that all maintained state (not private) schools must have a behaviour policy in place that includes measures to prevent all forms of bullying among pupils. This policy needs to be decided by the school and all teachers, pupils and parents need to be aware of the policy.