HCR Law Events

22 June 2023

Welsh government consults on reforms to independent schools

The Welsh Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, has announced the launch of a consultation on the proposals to update the regulations under which independent schools in Wales operate.

The Welsh Government have acknowledged that the majority of regulations governing independent schools are now twenty years old, and as such no longer reflect current best practice, guidance, or policies. It is anticipated that amending the regulations will ensure that public trust and confidence in the independent school sector in Wales is maintained; as well as improving the welfare, health and safety of pupils in independent schools, whilst at the same time not limiting unnecessarily the freedom independent schools have to organise themselves and deliver education.

The Welsh Government’s intention is to now replace both the ‘Independent School Standards (Wales) Regulations 2003’ and ‘The Independent Schools (Provision of Information) (Wales) Regulations 2003’. In addition, they propose the introduction of the new ‘Independent Schools (Prohibition on Participation in Management) (Wales) Regulations 2023’.

These new Regulations will prescribe the grounds on which a direction may be given under section 167A of the Education Act 2002 to prohibit a person from taking part in the management of an independent school in Wales, or to place a restriction on their ability to do so.

These three sets of regulations form part of a wider framework of regulation, guidance and policies that work together to safeguard learners in independent schools. In strengthening safeguarding training requirements for school leaders and their staff and ensuring that they actively promote the safeguarding of learners in their school the Welsh Government anticipate that this updated legislative framework will address any concerns about safeguarding and governance in some independent schools.

What changes can we expect to see?

The reforms will seek to address the recommendations for Wales from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). The changes recommended by the IICSA include the requirement for ensuring that schools actively promote the safeguarding of learners, strengthening safeguarding training requirements for school leadership, staff and learners, and consideration of who should be DBS checked together with increasing the frequency of these checks.

Other changes that are required have been identified through the Welsh Government’s ‘Call for Evidence’ and through virtual stakeholder engagement events. These include.

  • Making it clear the school proprietor is ultimately responsible for compliance.
  • Consequential changes to the Regulations 2003 to ensure correct references to the phasing in of theAdditional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act.
  • Making it clear in that the curriculum must demonstrate that it meets the needs of all individual learners.
  • Including suitable reference to the Equality Act 2010 in relation to the school’s personal, social and health education (PSHE) programme.
  • Removing any references to ‘class time’, ‘classroom’ and ‘class’ from the regulations to reflect hybrid/remote teaching and learning.
  • Strengthening arrangements for safeguarding training, including recording training details.
  • Introducing a requirement for reviewing school policies.

This is not an exhaustive list of the proposed changes. A full list of the proposed changes and further information on the consultation process can be found here.

The responses received during the consultation exercise will help inform the final updated versions of the new regulations. The consultation will close 17 July 2023 and we will continue to update Schools on any significant changes to be aware of.

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About the Author
Kate Shields, Chartered Legal Executive (FCILEx)

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