Election Manifesto Promises on Education: Can They be Delivered?

Although some are saying that education is taking a back seat in the parties’ campaigning priorities to date, the manifesto promises of the main three parties in England throw up some vital governance and legal questions that deserve serious scrutiny, say Stone King LLP, specialist solicitors for schools:

•    All three parties say that State schools will not be run by private entities for a profit.  Given the limited capacity of the charity sector to provide entities that can run schools, we would expect more clustering of schools in larger groups, particularly if the Conservatives implement their policy to force over 3000 “requiring improvement” schools into academy status.

More creativity and variety in the legal structures for multi school collaboration will be a key development over the next parliament if effective governance is going to be delivered.

•    At the next level up there is a lack of clarity about what will happen to the “middle tier” between schools and central government.  Currently there is a muddled mix of the Regional School Commissioners intervening in schools on behalf of central government, but Local Authorities still having legal responsibility for maintaining standards in maintained schools and ensuring enough school places.  
Given the severe reduction in the resources and capacity of local authorities in the past 5 years, the future legal role of local authorities in schools is a key issue that needs to be clear going forward.  In particular, will LAs have a direct role in the regional bodies that both main parties intend to set up to supervise and commission schools? We suspect that under labour, LAs will have a greater role. 

•    Another key change will be the common policy for Ofsted to inspect multi academy trusts (MATs) at trust level as well as independent level.  Many of our MAT clients have already experienced early forms of this inspection and MATS will have to sharpen up their governance and oversight structures and systems considerably to prepare for this more macro level of accountability, which is likely to be implemented early in the next parliament.
•    The other huge policy issue going forward is the recruitment and standards expected of teachers.  The key Labour policy of requiring all teachers to have a teaching qualification will require considerable legal change, notably in setting up ways for unqualified teachers to transition to qualified status without losing them from an already understaffed teaching profession.

•    Another interesting policy is Labour’s intention to oblige private schools to form a “meaningful partnership” with state schools if they want to claim business rates relief: defining what that means will be an interesting legal and  practical process if that policy is implemented.

•    Finally, the shared greater emphasis on vocational qualifications may lead more schools to set up a vocational “arm” to complement their academic arm.  There is a huge appetite amount higher education and business for this, particularly in the form of University Technical Colleges.
Media enquiries:  for further information please contact Roger Inman, Partner and Head of Education at Stone King LLP via ri@stoneking.co.uk or 07946181235.

Stone King is independently recognised as one of the UK’s leading education law firms and acts for more than 800 maintained and independent schools nationwide.

The firm has been at the forefront of the academies programme, advising many schools seeking independent status. As well as having specialists in the highly technical area of education law, Stone King’s education team also advises on associated areas such as employment, property and school business management.

With offices in London, Bath and Cambridge, Stone King also has dedicated legal teams serving other key sectors nationally including charity and social enterprise, business and private clients. The firm currently employs nearly 200 people across its practice areas.

Stone King is independently recognised as a leading law firm by both Chambers and the Legal 500, and is ranked one of the UK’s top 200 law firms by The Lawyer. It also holds the Law Society’s prestigious Lexcel practice management quality mark.

For more information visit www.stoneking.co.uk


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