Schools are subject to regulative bodies and these include, the schools governing body, the health and safety executive and Ofsted. All of whom exist to monitor and enforce legislation.
The schools governing body is built up from different members of the school community, including school management, parents, teaching and non-teaching staff, members from the school community and public. They are responsible for setting the general direction, vision and ethos the school should be developing, monitoring and reviewing. The governing body of a school is responsible for its conduct and educational achievement which also means they are responsible for standards including staffing, policies, performance management, finance, discipline, and curriculum.
Every school or educational setting must have their own Health and safety policy with guidelines set by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who is a government body. The HSE requires employers to ensure the health and safety of their employees and others who may be affected by their work activities. The Health and Safety Executive’s task is to monitor all health and safety responsibilities. It includes carrying out regular risk assessments in the school premises and proposing changes where necessary. In fact, it is essential that all areas of the school are safe for children, who might be not be aware of the risks and the importance of their own safety, depending on their age and level of development. Classroom furniture, specialised equipment for PE, Chemistry and Physics Lab, supplies, and playground furniture must be in a satisfactory condition in order to avoid any accidents while learning or playing activities.
Schools must therefore comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the following Health and Safety at Work Regulations Act 1999. The legislation requires employers to assess the risks of activities, apply measures to control these risks and inform employees of the measures. The school is responsible for the health and safety procedures and these will vary depending of the type of school, but generally schools are required to:
• carry out risk assessments and suitable procedures for any new situation which may increase the risks for example when on a school trip;
• comply with, complete and allow access to any appropriate paperwork which could be requested during an inspection under the H;S Act;
• provide a school’s health and safety policy and ensure that all staff are aware and understand it.
Part of Health and Safety Executive’s job is record any accident occurring in the school, whether to pupils, staff or visitors. If the accident happens to a pupil, the parents or carers must be informed immediately. It may be necessary to carry out a risk assessment to find any faulty equipment.
Health and Safety Executives must make sure that health and safety policies are followed by the staff at all times, keeping up their awareness of these issues and providing training and guidance where required. It might be required of them to train the rest of the staff about the policies or organise a tutor to carry out the training session and make sure everybody is clear about their responsibilities. The Health and Safety Executive’s task is to monitor the day-to-day application of these policies and require attention to any negligence that can potentially cause dangers to anybody in the premises.
Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s services and skills) is another very important regulatory body that inspects and regulates the educational and childcare institutions and reports directly to the Government. Since the 1st of April 2007 Ofsted has been responsible for the registration, regulation and inspection of children’s social care in England. This regulatory body focuses on safeguarding and promoting children and young people’s welfare such as:
• Preventing impairment of children’s health or development;
• Ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care;
• Undertake that role as to enable those children to have optimum life chances and to enter adulthood successfully.
Ofsted carries out hundreds of inspections and regulatory visits throughout educational establishments every week and all results are published on their website. They also provide help to educational settings that have not reached the required standards in improving their services.
Ofsted has statutory guidance which is based upon safeguarding children and safer recruitment. Ofsted inspectors look to collect first hand evidence on good practice and information from staff, pupils and parents in order to make a professional judgement on the schools and their ethos. They also evaluate schools’ policies and procedures, the provision of the national curriculum, social care, leadership, communication, etc.
Ofsted can rate a school ranging from ‘outstanding’ to placing it in special measures. Its aim would be for all schools to be outstanding, although in reality that happens rarely. If a school is placed in special measures or gets ‘good’ rather than ‘outstanding’, Ofsted will work with the school to help it tighten its policies, procedures and practice with the aim to improve its general rate.
Other school-specific regulatory bodies:
GTC, General Teaching Council: All registered teachers in England are required to be members of the GTC. Its functions are that of a regulatory role of the teaching profession. The General Teaching Council published the “Code of Conduct and Practice for Teachers” and convened panels of the GTC had the power to issue reprimand on basis of misconduct. Since March 2012, its function has been taken over by the Teaching Agency (General Teaching Council for England).
ISC, Independent Schools Council: This is a non-profit organisation that represents more than 1200 schools in the independent education sector, assisted by a team of expert advisors of specific areas. These schools are ranked among the best in the world and educate more than half a million children each year. The ISC aims to protect the sector promoting schools’ interests and providing legal and regulatory guidance, but it also provide online access and support informing parental decisions.
LEA, Local Educational Authority: Local education authorities are the local councils in England and Wales that are responsible for education within their jurisdiction. The term is used to identify which council (district or county) is locally responsible for education in a system with several layers of local Government. There was a time when the LEAs managed all state schools in their areas and controlled what schools did. They held the budget for the schools and the schools had to ask for everything they needed. The LEA appointed the staff, set the curriculum and inspected the schools. Those days have long gone, and legislation has reduced the role of the LEA and strengthened that of the schools and the central Government department. This is currently called the Department for Education. Schools are now largely self-governing. All manage their own budgets; many employ their own staff, own the land and buildings and only come into contact with the LEA when they choose to make use of specific services. In general, the Local Educational Authority has a closer relationship with community and voluntary controlled schools.
PTA, Parent Teacher Association: A PTA is a body made up of both parents and teachers alike who have a responsibility to the teaching and welfare of the children under their care. The general goal of a PTA is to bring about an understanding between parents and the school at which their children are being taught. Most schools have a PTA; its role is to encourage closer links between home and school. PTAs are best known for their fundraising work, but they have a useful social function too. Fundraising events provide an opportunity for parents, staff and pupils to get together. Most PTAs hold their annual general meeting in September, at the start of the school year. At this meeting a committee is elected to run the PTA, usually consisting of a chair, a vice-chair, a treasurer, a secretary and other ordinary committee members. These ordinary members include at least one, and often two, parents from each class as “class reps”. Their job is to pass on information from the PTA to other parents in their children’s classes.