Summarise the laws and codes of practice affecting work in schools There are a number of pieces of current legislation which govern the work in schools and although these are large in number it is important to recognise the key pieces of legislation and how these affect work in schools. The key pieces of legislation are listed below with a brief outline of how each piece affects work in schools:
a)The Data Protection Act 1998
This Act sets out the guidelines in relation to how schools use and store information. It advises that information must only be used for the purpose for which it was obtained and that all information must be stored securely on site and that information remains confidential at all times.
b)The UN Convention on Rights of the Child 1989
This came into force in the UK in 1991 and contains 54 Articles in total, of which 7 directly affect work in schools. These seven Articles, numbers 2,3,12,13,14,28 and 29 give specific information on the Rights of the Child in relation to a child’s rights to protection from discrimination and ensuring a child’s best interests are of foremost importance. It states that all children are have an equal right to education and that education itself should strive to develop a child’s individual talents and abilities, allowing a child to obtain their fullest potential. These Articles also state that children are entitled to express their opinion which should also be considered in relation to their age and maturity and not dismissed.
c)Education Act 2002
This Act is regularly updated to reflect changes in the regulation of education, along with staffing and governance guidance. The 2002 Act was amended in 2006 to reflect the requirement for schools to develop community based links leading to community cohesion.
d)The Children Act 2004 and the Childcare Act 2006
The main aim of the The Children Act 2004 was to address the issues of care, welfare and discipline placing more responsibility on Social Services and Education in respect of pupil welfare. The 2004 Act was enacted at the same time as the ‘Every Child Matters’ framework which has five main outcomes for children which are to be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution and achieve economic well-being.
Additionally, The Childcare Act 2006 extended responsibilities of Local Authorities for them to reduce inequalities and make sure that there are enough childcare provisions to meet the demand from working parents. Local Authorities must have information available for parents in relation to childcare and they must also take responsibility for checking that those who are providing childcare are correctly and sufficiently trained to do so. The Local Authority are also responsible, under this Act, for the implementation of the Early Years Foundation Stage for children under 5 and for monitoring and regulating childcare providers.
These Acts were brought in to create an education environment where there is more cohesion and joint working between schools and other agencies to achieve the best for children.
e)Freedom of Information Act 2000
The purpose of this Act was to increase transparency and accountability in the public sector, hence why it affects schools. This Act allows people to request historic information held by a school. It is the duty of a school to advise and assist anyone requesting information but this can be limited in cases of a confidential nature. Schools should refer to the DCSF guidance when dealing with information requests.
f)Human Right Act 1998
The Human Rights Act 1998 converted into UK law the policies and guidance set out in the European Convention on Human Rights 1950. The 1998 Act was created to protect the rights of individuals in the UK, but balanced against the rights of others. In relation to schools, this Act protects the right of an individual to education (Article 2 of Part II), the right to respect for a private and family life (Article 8) and the right to freedom of expression (Article 10). Furthermore, for the protection of others in schools, the Act permits the restraint of a pupil, provided in doing so it protects others or prevents an injury or a crime being committed.
g)Special Educational Needs (SEN) Code of Practice 2001
This Code of Practice affects schools as it states that SEN children and their parents have an increased right to access mainstream education. The effect of this Code means that there is now an increased number of SEN children in mainstream schools which in turn has led to more individual support assistants being employed in schools. This means increased integration of SEN children and a more diverse environment in schools all of which has a positive effect on the school.
h)Disability Discrimination Act 1995
This Act and the subsequent updates to it affect schools in relation to access. The Act states schools must make provisions for access for pupils with disabilities and that schools must ensure that no pupil is excluded from any aspect of school life due to their disabilities. The Act affects new and existing schools differently as new schools must make provision in all areas for pupils with disabilities whereas existing schools only have to make provisions if they are making alterations or modifications to the school.