Monday, 7 March 2011

School Policies - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Policies - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The whole area of policies – which ones you need to have, how frequently to review them, etc can seem like a minefield! Here are some frequently asked questions which may answer some of your queries.

1. Why do we have policies?

A number of policies are required by law. (see next question)
Aside from this requirement it actually makes sense to have an agreed approach to an issue, and done well a set of policies provides the framework in which a school can operate effectively with due regard to fairness and equality of opportunity.

2. Which statutory policies do we need?

A full list of the current statutory policies is in The Guide to the Law for School Governors and can be found at the back in Annex 2.

3. We need a new policy. Where can we get a model policy to use as a guide?

An excellent resource book is available called ‘Policies: A Guide for School Governors and Headteachers’. This comes with a range of sample policies and includes a CD with the policies to enable you to use them. This publication can be purchased from Adamson Publishing Ltd.

4. How often do we need to review policies?

There are few hard and fast rules on how frequently policies should be reviewed, but best practice would be every one to three years unless otherwise dictated by the FGB or by changes in legislation.

5. Who should review policies?

Usually the job of reviewing a policy would fall to a committee, and this should be reflected in the committee’s terms of reference. Once a committee has agreed a policy it should then be recommended to the full governing body for approval. Many of the policies in school eg policies on individual subjects in the curriculum are usually developed and reviewed by the Headteacher and staff.

6. Does the full governing body have to approve all policies?

Unless specifically delegated to a committee, the governing body should approve all the statutory policies listed in the Guide to the Law and any others that affect the strategic direction of the school.

Other policies eg those to do with specific areas of the curriculum, would normally be presented to the appropriate committee, agreed by them and just reported to the governing body.

7. How do we go about reviewing policies?

The full governing body (FGB) should establish a system of regular reporting by whoever is responsible for implementing the policy in question. Some policies come up for review in the course of the annual cycle of the school development plan and budget. Others may need reviewing as a result of statutory changes.

When reading about developments in education eg in Clerks’ briefing papers or other sources, Governors and Clerks should be mindful of the possible impact on the currency of school policies.

In reviewing a policy, the FGB or relevant committee should consider whom, apart from the head, it should consult before reaching a decision. It is good practice for those involved in writing a policy to be consulted when it is subsequently reviewed.

8. It’s difficult keeping track of which policies need reviewing and when! Any suggestions?

One suggestion would be to split your list of policies for review into terms and have a rolling programme of policies to be reviewed each term. Have a table listing each term’s policies, who needs to review it, if any changes are required, if these have been implemented, etc. You can then keep track of what has happened to each policy. Each year create a fresh table for each term and you will have an ongoing record of what was reviewed and when.

9. Why doesn’t the local authority provide us with model policies for all the ones we need to have?

The LA does provide many model policies for schools to adopt where appropriate eg a model complaints policy for schools. However ‘off the peg’ policies that can be rubber stamped and filed away are not ideal because the governing body must take ownership of what the policies say and understand the implications of implementing them.

The discussion involved in the development of a policy is valuable and can bring up other factors that need to be addressed and included. Each school is individual and it is important to tailor policies to your school.

10 The list of policies always seems to get longer and longer. Can we ever dispense with policies?

As part of the review process governors should take an overview and consider whether there is a continuing need for some policies. In some cases it may be possible to combine policies into one. For example it is quite common to combine the Race Equality Policy, the Gender Equality Policy and the Disabilty Equality

Policy into an Equal Opportunities Policy. In this case you do need to make sure that the statutory sections are clearly identified. Similarly all aspects of Child Protection can be included as sections in a Safeguarding Policy.

Questioning the need for a policy should form part of the review process.

11 Do all policies have to be in the same format?

The short answer is no but a consistent format will make them more accessible to everyone. This does not have to be done all at one time, but perhaps as each is reviewed.

Another useful resource is:

Writing a Policy How to make your policies: clear, concise, consistent.

Published by the NAHT

This advice was produced by Bracknell Forest Council for their School Governors

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