School obligations and considerations for the year ahead (2019/20 academic year)

Here’s a handy guide setting out obligations and considerations for schools (independent, academies and maintained) for the year ahead

Brexit

The government has updated its Brexit preparation guidance for schools, including:

  • Details of where to find information about EU Settled Status scheme, helpful if you or your staff are EU citizens; (for immigration advice please contact Partner Julie Moktadir)
  • Information on medicines and on travel to the EU, which may be useful for planning school trips;
  • New guidance relating to school food
Ofsted

Ofsted’s new Inspection Handbook Inspecting the curriculum is now in operation. In July we published an article outlining the main features of Ofsted’s new approach to inspections, and its implications for schools. The document explains how inspectors will look at the quality of education under the new framework, while recognising that each inspection is different.

Schools and mental health

A £9.3 million mental health training programme for schools and colleges in England was announced in July. The training, led by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, will be rolled out to schools and colleges in phases over four years starting this September.

Children and young people’s experiences living with mental ill health is of particular concern to all schools and, in recognition of this, Ofsted has published guidance for inspectors with a focus on children aged 10 to 15-years-old in England. A series of six joint targeted area inspections (JTAI) involving Ofsted, Care Quality Commission (CQC), HMI Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, and HMI Probation will begin this September, and will include An in-depth investigation into how local services respond to children and their families when children are: living with mental ill health; subject to a child in need or child protection plan; a looked-after child.

Meanwhile, a ‘Healthy Schools’ rating scheme was announced in July. This is a voluntary scheme for primary and secondary schools recognising their contribution to supporting pupils’ health, as well as showing parents how they have performed.

Academies and Maintained Schools

Data protection

A recent spate of academy trust consensual audits has indicated that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) expects a very high standard of good practice. This is strongly linked to a new GDPR Data Protection ‘Accountability Principle’. Academy Trusts should make sure they are prepared; Stone King’s Information Law Team has produced an ‘Audit Readiness Pack’ for Academy trusts. This is practical guidance about how to embed the accountability principle in the Trust’s governance and operational practices to help get you ready for an ICO data protection audit.

Please contact Tom Morrison (Stone King retainer clients will receive an additional discount).

Finance and governance

The Academies Financial Handbook 2019 must be complied with. From this September, the ESFA has tightened up the internal scrutiny requirements on academy trusts, with the more significant changes including:

  • A new requirement on trusts to show how they have checked that their internal systems are effective and compliant through an independently-prepared annual internal scrutiny report, submitted to the ESFA.
  • An increased emphasis throughout on trusts having robust internal scrutiny and risk management.
  • Trusts must now maintain a risk register.
  • Decisions about levels of executive pay must be defensible (not just reasonable).
  • Trusts under a financial notice to improve must publish this on their website.

In supporting academy trusts in making good decisions about finance and governance, the ESFA has also published new guidance to support academy trusts in making decisions about governance including:

Admissions

1 October 2019: Admissions authorities (the Academy Trust, governing body or the local authority) must publicly consult on relevant changes to admission arrangements for entry in September 2021 or unchanged arrangements if they have not been consulted on within the past 7 years. Consultation must be completed by 31 January 2019. Whether consultation takes place or not, all admission authorities must determine admission arrangements each February for the following year: i.e. September 2021 arrangements must be determined by 28 February 2020.

Funding and grants

October/November 2019 to 2020: Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) is an annual bidding round for academy trusts to apply for capital funding. The ESFA is likely to publish guidance on the 2019-20 CIF in October 2019. The guidance will specify the deadline for new applications to register on the online portal (expected to be November 2019) and the deadline for the submission of the bids themselves (expected to be the beginning December 2019).

New DfE grant funding agreement: terms and conditions have been added by the DfE, which apply to grant funding agreements with external organisations. Although these will apply to any agreement effective as of 1 September 2019, current agreements will continue to operate under the existing terms and conditions (effective from 30 August 2017) for the rest of the 2019 to 2020 financial year.

4 November 2019 is the deadline for academy trusts to complete the land and buildings collection tool (LBCT) which will be available from 1st October 2019. The return needs to be completed by each academy trust to provide land and buildings details for each academy school it operates as at 31 August 2019. If an academy joins an academy trust on or after 1 September 2019, it will be accounted for in the LBCT next year.

31 December 2019 is the deadline for Academy trusts must submit to the ESFA audited accounts for the period ending 31 August 2019. The ESFA is expected to issue guidance on the 2017/18 academies accounts return by October 2019. Additionally, accounts must be published on an academy trust’s website as soon as possible after approval by the trustees, but by no later than 31 January each year.

The deadline for all maintained and academy schools census returns to reach the Department for Education is provided in the table below.

Data collection Census day Deadline for returns
Autumn census Thursday 3 October 2019 Wednesday 30 October 2019
Spring census Thursday 16 January 2019 Wednesday 12 February 2019
Summer census Thursday 21 May 2019 Wednesday 17 June 2019

The law and practice referred to in this article has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

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