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What are the Legal Challenges facing schools in the UK?

What are the Legal Challenges facing schools in the UK?

As a Paralegal, I have been closely following the legal challenges facing schools today in the UK. There are several issues that have come to the forefront in recent years, and it is important for educators and administrators to be aware of them in the light of current budget restraints in order to protect themselves and their students.

One of the biggest challenges facing schools today is the issue of safeguarding. Schools have a duty of care to protect their students from harm, whether that be physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. This includes implementing effective policies and procedures, providing appropriate training to staff, and responding promptly and appropriately to any allegations of abuse or neglect. If your child is in receipt of an Education Health and Care Plan there may be specific provisions around this due to the vulnerability of your child. The duties also extend to your Local Authority.

This leads me to my next area of concern; discrimination and harassment. Schools must ensure that all students are treated fairly and with respect, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability status. Instances of bullying or harassment must be addressed promptly, schools must provide extra help for students with disabilities, and promote diversity and inclusion within the school community.

If you are finding that your child is being excluded from certain school activities because of their special educational needs or a disability it might be worth a chat with your school over what these needs are and how they can be met.

It has become clear to me over the many years I have specialised in special educational needs law that most schools try their utmost with the resources they have, to address such situations. However, sometimes they may need help in the form of extra funding or training. If, even given that extra support, you find your child is still unhappy it may be worth considering an alternative placement.

My third challenge is related to data protection and privacy. With the increasing use of technology in education, schools must take steps to ensure that student data is protected and that privacy is maintained. This includes implementing appropriate security measures, obtaining consent for data collection and use, and providing clear information about how data is being used and shared.

I have represented parents on cases where information concerning their special needs child has been lost, destroyed, sent out without a parent’s permission to a third party or even sent to the wrong parents!

The law is very strict on the privacy of data since the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and level of financial resources, this legislation is fairly inflexible on liability. The Information Commissioners Office are responsible for ensuring the implementation of these regulations and potentially hand out fines if GDPR is breached.

A useful self-assessment tool can be found here on their website https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/sme-web-hub/checklists/data-protection-self-assessment/

Most importantly, in my line of work, schools must also be aware of their legal obligations with regard to special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). This includes providing extra help and time for students with special educational needs, conducting regular assessments and reviews, and ensuring that all staff are trained to work with students with disabilities. Often as part of my work I find myself requesting specialist training is provided for staff in order that a child’s needs are met.

If you have questions on any of the above that you feel I can help with feel free to contact me on 01323 404835 to arrange an informal chat and see how together we can seek improvements to your child’s education, or your school’s policies and procedures to ensure that our children are supported to achieve the best they can in a safe and supportive environment.