Education newsletter - Spring Term 2022 edition
6 January 2022
Welcome to the Spring 2022 edition of our newsletter for schools.
This time last year schools in England were suddenly closed to the detriment of pupils, parents and staff. Where are we now? Despite the vaccination roll out, the new year starts with high rates of staff absence, pupils in secondary schools in masks, some school sites closed and remote learning is back for some.
On a brighter note it may be that the current COVID variant has peaked and some normality can resume in a few weeks' time. Let us hope that 2022 will, in the end, be a very different and better year in education than the last 2 years.
In this edition we provide an update on Information Law which includes examples of recent data protection and privacy cases.
We look at what schools can do to avoid bad debts and maximise fee recovery as well as how to carry out an effective disciplinary and grievance investigation.
Finally we list the advantages of registering land with the HM Land Registry.
To everyone working in the education sector, thank you for everything you are doing. Our team at Wilsons are here to support you with whatever challenges you might face over the coming months.
All the best for 2022.
Partner and Head of the Education Team
Maximising school fees debt recovery
All fee-paying schools will have experienced some problem with school fees debts at one time or another. It may only be a handful of debts, but they inevitably lead to an inordinate amount of management time being spent and sometimes the need to involve lawyers.
As Oscar Wilde once said: "A man who pays his bills on time is soon forgotten" but as many Bursars and Heads will know from experience, parents who regularly and repeatedly don't pay the school fees on time, may become very well known to the school office!
What can schools do to avoid bad debts and to maximise school fees recovery?
Conducting disciplinary and grievance investigations
As a member of the Senior Leadership Team, conducting a grievance or disciplinary investigation is a task which you probably hope will not fall onto your desk. However, there are a number of scenarios in which a school will need to conduct an investigation, including as part of a grievance or disciplinary process. It is important that investigations are carried out fairly, thoroughly and that the procedure is robust.
This article sets out how to carry out an effective investigation and, in particular, ensure that the school complies with the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.
Information law update
The last year has seen the High Court handling a large number of data protection and privacy cases and two of them in particular could be relevant to schools.
In the first, a firm of solicitors inadvertently sent an email and attachments regarding unpaid school fees to the wrong parent. The parents whose information was disclosed responded by suing the solicitors and claimed damages for misuse of private information, breach of confidence, negligence and breach of the duties contained in the GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018. In response, the solicitors conceded that all these claims were valid but argued that any distress or damage suffered by the indebted parents did not surpass the de minimis threshold.
HM Land Registry: The 2030 Goal of 'Comprehensive Registration'
If your school has unregistered land on-site or in your portfolio, perhaps 2022 is the year to consider voluntary registration with HM Land Registry. For the reasons set out in this article, our view is that there are only advantages to be gained from doing so.
This update is of a general nature and is not a substitute for professional advice. No responsibility can be accepted for the consequences of any action taken or refrained from as a result of what is said.