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Education News

IBB Law’s specialist education team is dedicated to enabling children and young people achieve beyond their dreams. We only act for children, young people and their parents. We are focused on achieving the best possible outcomes for those at the heart of education.

We provide advice and support across the full range of education issues. We monitor decisions in the courts, new statutes, rules, regulations and guidance from Government. We also take note of reports from digital media. The monitoring and recording of developments in education are collated in this Education News page. Hyperlinks are included to identify the primary source to assist those looking for more information.

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Primary school offers, for places starting in September 2024, are made to parents on Tuesday 16 April 2024.

Dr Hilary Cass has submitted her final report and recommendations to NHS England in her role as Chair of the Independent Review of gender identity services for children and young people. Some of the key findings are:

  • “There is no simple explanation for the increase in the numbers of predominantly young people and young adults who have a trans or gender diverse identity, but there is broad agreement that it is a result of a complex interplay between biological, psychological and social factors. This balance of factors will be different in each individual.
  • There are conflicting views about the clinical approach, with expectations of care at times being far from usual clinical practice. This has made some clinicians fearful of working with gender-questioning young people, despite their presentation being similar to many children and young people presenting to other NHS services.
  • While a considerable amount of research has been published in this field, systematic evidence reviews demonstrated the poor quality of the published studies, meaning there is not a reliable evidence base upon which to make clinical decisions, or for children and their families to make informed choices.
  • For most young people, a medical pathway will not be the best way to manage their gender-related distress. For those young people for whom a medical pathway is clinically indicated, it is not enough to provide this without also addressing wider mental health and/or psychosocially challenging problems.”

The National Education Union says sexism is on the rise in schools because of harmful content on children’s phones.  “The rise of sexist and violent ideas online is problematic and young people are very influenced by their peers and the content driven by algorithms. Greater regulation of tech companies and quicker action on removing harmful content is needed. Helping young people interrogate the motivation and appeal of online figures can help students to think critically about what they see and increase confidence in reporting harassment.”

BBC summarises their own research in respect of sexual misconduct at universities.  “A three-month BBC investigation has revealed that fewer than half of UK universities could provide up-to-date sexual misconduct data.  Freedom of Information requests to all 142 public universities showed that they categorise these reports in different ways. Some use sexual misconduct as an umbrella term, while others had more specific labels like rape, sexual assault and harassment. BBC Wales sent all 142 public UK universities FOI requests asking how many reports of sexual misconduct they have had from 2013 to 2023. A total of 42 did not respond, 33 refused and 67 were able to provide only partial data.”

BBC reports, 73 children in Bristol have been excluded from schools since the start of the last academic year.  Councillor Kerry Bailes said: “[Children are] being failed by the schools, by the system, funding and the culture crisis. Is it any wonder we’re in a position where kids are killing kids in this city? They’ve been failed massively.”

The Department for Education published guidance, Mobile phones in Schools. It applies to all maintained schools, academies, free schools, non-maintained special schools and independent schools. The guidance requires all schools to introduce a mobile phone policy prohibiting the use of mobile phones throughout the school day (including breaks), with appropriate sanctions for breaches of the policy.

The High Court delivered its judgment in Natasha Abrahart v University of Bristol. This is an important case as it potentially addressed the issue of to what extent a university owes a duty of care to its students. The background is that Natasha Abrahart took her own life on the day she was due to take part in a group presentation at the University of Bristol. The parents’ case against the university was for unlawful discrimination and negligence. The case against the university succeeded, on the grounds the university had breached the Equality Act. The claim in negligence (duty of care) was dismissed. The university appealed to the High Court. That appeal was dismissed and so the parents succeeded.   The university had breached its statutory duties under the Equality Act 2010 by insisting that a student suffering from depression and social anxiety disorder participated in laboratory interviews and conferences as part of a mandatory module of her physics degree. The oral assessments were not a competence standard and the university should have removed or adjusted the requirements of the module. Unfortunately, the High Court did not address the important question of, the extent of any duty of care owed to students by universities, saying it was not necessary to do so.

Welsh government announces increase in university tuition fees for domestic students, raising the tuition fee cap from £9,000 to £9,250, which will bring tuition fee costs into line with the level charged by higher education providers in England. The increase will come into effect in September 2024 and is the first rise in the tuition fee cap, in Wales, since 2011.

After suggestions that universities have been lowering their standards to attract overseas students, Universities UK have issued a statement, identifying a number of actions, which include the statement that Universities UK will update their Admissions Code of Practice, to ensure that stakeholders have confidence “that the systems is fair, transparent and robust.”

IBB Law publishes blog, having analysed and dissected permanent exclusion and suspension data in England, from the academic year 2016/17 through to 2021/22, which were published by the Department for Education (DfE) at the end of 2023. The data threw up a number of notable statistics and trends, highlighting many of the potential issues schools and parents are facing when it comes to dealing with children’s behaviour.   1,200,186 (2%) of all pupils in England were excluded and/or suspended between 2016 and 2022.

The Government announced that disposable vapes will be banned in the UK “as part of ambitious government plans to tackle the rise in youth vaping and protect children’s health.”

Welsh Government publishes “Peer-on-peer sexual harassment in education settings: action plan.” The guidance document is described as an action plan to prevent and respond to peer-on-peer sexual harassment in education settings.

Derby City Council has been ordered to pay compensation following delay in implementing an Educational Health Care Plan. A report from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman concluded the delay “caused a significant injustice”. The council was ordered to pay £6,000 compensation.