Introduction

Education institutions need to be aware of the Deregulation Bill (“the Bill”). The Bill takes further the commitment of the Government to remove unnecessary red tape in order to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of organisations.

The Bill recently completed its passage through Parliament and is awaiting the Royal Assent. Apart from the changes to apprenticeships, which will be brought into force on a date to be fixed by ministerial order, the education-related provisions will come into force on 16 May.

The Bill runs to 111 clauses and 21 Schedules. It includes some provisions that will affect all employers and land owners. The Bill also contains important general provisions that will enable ministers to issue guidance on the exercise of regulatory functions, in particular so that regulation will promote economic growth and also transparency on the part of those charged with compliance. Ministers will also acquire the right to make regulations repealing out of date primary legislation. This briefing will, however, focus on those clauses specifically affecting education institutions.

Apprenticeships

Clause 3 and Schedule 1 contain provisions simplifying arrangements for apprenticeships in England and, to a lesser extent, Wales, the former being the result of the Richards Review of apprenticeships. Clause 4 provides for the payment of government funding of apprenticeships to be routed by HMRC to employers, including by allowing employers to deduct the relevant amount from monies otherwise owing to HMRC.

Chief Executive of Skills Funding

Clause 63 abolishes the post of Chief Executive of Skills Funding and transfers the statutory functions of the Chief Executive to the Secretary of State. Schedule 14 makes consequential amendments to the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009. This will allow the SFA to become an agency within the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (in the same way that the EFA is an agency within the Department for Education).

Further and higher education: reduction of burdens

Clause 64 provides for a range of measures set out in Schedule 15 to reduce burdens on the post 16 education sector. They will come into force 2 months from the passing of the Bill. Changes of note include:

  • Repeal of a number of statutory powers of the Secretary of State in relation to local authority maintained further or higher education institutions. However, the Secretary of State will have the same power to intervene in English local authority maintained further education institutions as he has in relation to other English further education institutions.
  • Repeal of sections 23-26 and 32-34 Further and Higher Education Act 1992 (FHEA). These concern transfers of property from local authorities to further education corporations in England and Wales. They concerned the initial incorporation of further education corporations and are now considered to be obsolete.
  • Repeal of s.31 FHEA which allows the Secretary of State to give directions to designated institutions in England conducted by companies regarding the contents of their articles of association. The repeal is to ensure designated institutions have similar freedom over their governance arrangements as have further education corporations (although such institutions are still bound by the (streamlined) requirements of FHEA Schedule 4).
  • Repeal of s.33D(2)(b) and (4) FHEA. These allow the Secretary of State on his own initiative to make an order converting an English  sixth form corporation into a further education corporation. The power of a sixth form corporation to apply to the Secretary of State for such an order (s.33D(2)(a)) is retained.
  • Removal of the power of the Secretary of State to make regulations imposing qualification requirements for teaching staff and principals at further education and sixth form colleges in England, in line with the recommendations of Lord Lingfield’s report Professionalism in Further Education.

Schools: reduction of burdens

Clause 65 abolishes the duty of governing bodies of maintained schools in England to set performance targets for their schools, and the duty of local authorities in England to set annual targets for schools maintained by them. Further amendments are contained in Schedule 15.

Schedule 15 contains a number of changes which will come into force on days to be appointed by the Secretary of State. These include:

  • Limiting to Wales the requirement that a maintained school’s governing body make and review a statement of general principles that a head teacher must have regard to when formulating the school’s behaviour policy.
  • Limiting to Wales the requirement that the governing body of a maintained school or academy adopt a home-school agreement and parental declaration.
  • Transferring from local authorities to the governing bodies of voluntary controlled and community schools the power to determine school term and holiday dates. (The governing bodies of academies and of voluntary aided and foundation schools already have this power.)
  • Limiting to Wales the obligation of the governing bodies of maintained schools and of local authorities to have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State in relation to appointment, discipline, suspension and dismissal of school staff.
  • Removing the duty of governing bodies of  schools in England to provide a copy of a report by the Chief Inspector of Education about the investigation of a complaint about the school to parents of pupils at the school.
  • Removing the duty of governing bodies of maintained schools in England to provide a copy of inspection reports to anyone who asks for one and provide copies to parents of school pupils, replacing it with a new duty to inform all parents of pupils of the overall assessment in the report of the quality of the school’s education.

While some education institutions may feel that the changes are only a modest step down the path of deregulation of the sector others may feel that “every little helps”.