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Rites of spring

It's time to blow the dust off those old school policies, says Jane Martin in her monthly round-up of planning tips for governors.

THIS spring is an ideal time to polish up your school policies. When reviewing policies a good place to start is the new Guide to the Law for governors, which should be in schools.

If you can't get hold of this, use the Department for Education and Employment website www.dfee.gov.uk. Annex 3 lists all the policies and publications legally required and annex 4 lists those which are recommended. All schools must have policies on:

Charging - the governing body may not charge for anything unless it has drawn up a statement of policy on charging.

Pupil discipline - a written statement of general principles on behaviour and discipline.

Staff discipline - setting out the rules and grievance procedures for everyone to follow.

Special needs - the policy should set out the school's arrangements for meeting children's special educational needs. Regulations require that it must be freely available to parents.

Sex education - an area of great controversy at the moment, given the public debate over the repeal of Section 28, which bans councils from "promoting" homosexuality in schools. The Government issued new draft guidance on sex education last month (see www.dfee.gov.uksre-guidanceindex.htm), and consultation on this closes on April 20.

Aided and foundation schools need one or two more policies, because of their additional responsibilies or admissions and because they employ staff directly. These are:

Admissions - must be consistent with the statutory Admissions Code of Practice.

Health and safety - to meet the duty to protect staff and pupils under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

It is also recommended that all schools have policies on equal opportunities, which now should also address disability discrimination, health and safety and general complaints.

While not technically the employer, any governing body with a delegated budget will generally be regarded in the eyes of the law as such when it comes to equal opportunities issues.

There are two major changes. Schools no longer need to keep a written statement of curriculum aims, and former grant-maintained schools now with foundation or aided status are no longer required to have standing orders.

Most governing bodies have a rolling programme of policy review, with detailed work delegated to committees or working groups.

These should involve school staff, parents, pupils and others where appropriate, and draft policies should be on the agenda of a full governing body meeting.

If a member of staff takes the lead in reviewing the policy, they are usually invited to present the draft for discussion. If there is no programme for reviewing policies in place, suggest one for your school - particularly if OFSTED is due.

Jane Martin is an education officer (school governance and development) with Dudley education authority.

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