A school policy checklist

Written by: Craig McKee | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Statutory, non-statutory, school-specific – how many official policies does your school have, and how do you keep on top of them, ensuring they are reviewed and updated as required? Craig McKee advises


As I moved from class teacher to deputy and then to headteacher, I found that the higher I climbed the less my job was like the one I had trained to do.

That said, I enjoyed being a headteacher because I felt I could have a significant impact on the outcomes of a much larger number of pupils than I could if I were still teaching a class.

And yet much of my time had to be spent on admin or managerial tasks rather than things that directly had an impact on the quality of teaching and learning. One of these things was policy management.

There are slightly fewer than 30 statutory policies but in reality my school had more than double that number. We had the statutory policies, then curriculum policies (which I’m sure most schools have) and then some school-specific policies such as our Kids Club policy or the lettings policy.

Your school might well have other documents, such as a display policy and so on. As I am sure you can imagine, these quite quickly become a challenge to manage, review and update as required.


Why do you need policies?

Aside from the fact that there are a number of policies that you must have by law, I do believe that school policies can be important. When I was a head, one thing I always focused on was consistency, not only in my approach but also in how the school operated.

A pupil should have the same education through the school irrespective of which teacher’s class they are in – their entitlement should remain the same. How do you achieve this? Policies.

Policies quite simply ensure that there are clear expectations (of pupils, staff and parents/carers), agreed methods of working, and that the school’s values are applied consistently. Policies enable schools to be safe and supportive environments where pupils and teachers can thrive.


What policies are statutory?

Without wishing to teach anyone to suck eggs, here is the list of statutory policies as they pertain to maintained schools and academy schools as well as the required or recommended review cycle.

Policy

Maintained

Academies

Review cycle

Admission arrangements

Yes

Yes

Annually

Charging and remissions

Yes

Yes

Recommended annually



Data protection

Yes

Yes

Recommended annually

Protection of biometric information of children in schools and colleges

Yes

Yes

Recommended annually

Register of pupils’ admission to school and attendance

Yes

Yes

Live document

School information published on a website

Yes

Yes

Live document

School complaints

Yes

Yes

Recommended annually

Capability of staff

Yes

Yes

Recommended annually

Early career teachers (ECTs)

Yes

Yes

Recommended annually

Staff discipline, conduct and grievance (procedures for addressing)

Yes

Yes

Recommended annually

Single central record of recruitment and vetting checks

Yes

Yes

Live document

Statement of procedures for dealing with allegations of abuse against staff

Yes

Yes

Recommended annually

Teachers’ pay

Yes

No

Annually

Accessibility plan

Yes

Yes

Every 3 years

Child protection policy and procedures

Yes

Yes

Annually

Children with health needs who cannot attend school

Yes

Yes

Recommended annually

Early years foundation stage (EYFS)

Yes

Yes

Varies

Special educational needs and disability

Yes

Yes

Annually

Supporting pupils with medical conditions

Yes

Yes

Recommended annually

Relationships education (primary) and relationships and sex education (secondary)

Yes

Yes

Recommended annually

Behaviour in schools

Yes

Yes

Recommended annually

Behaviour principles written statement

Yes

No

Recommended annually

School exclusion

Yes

Yes

Recommended annually

Health and safety

Yes

Yes

Annually

First aid in schools

Yes

Yes

Recommended annually

Premises management documents

Yes

Yes

Recommended annually

Equality information and objectives (public sector equality duty) statement for publication

Yes

Yes

Every four years

Governors’ allowances (schemes for paying)

Yes

No

Recommended annually

Instrument of government

Yes

No

Recommended annually

Register of business interests of headteachers and governors

Yes

Yes

Live document

Careers guidance – details of your careers programme and a provider access statement

Yes

Yes

Recommended annually

One caveat is that the current government guidance on uniform policy is not yet statutory, however there is now statutory guidance on the cost of school uniforms. Within this it is a requirement to review school uniform policy and publish certain information about your school uniform online, so this is a policy I would ensure you have in place. For more on the new statutory guidance on the cost of school uniforms, see here.

Likewise, the Department for Education has published non-statutory guidance about the school attendance policy which has come into effect this year but which is expected to become statutory from September 2023.

It is worth mentioning that there is also a statutory requirement for other policies to be published on your school website, which is another thing to manage (DfE 2014; 2016).


How do you manage them?

Having a policy review schedule is really important. You need to have a clear list of what is due and when so that you can use this in your senior leadership team and governor meetings to ensure you stay up-to-date.

As I said earlier, I believe that policies are important to make sure standards are consistent, but the simple truth is that they are most often referred to if there has been a problem – and it is in these situations that having an out-of-date or inconsistently applied policy can become a real issue. So staying on top of this is important.

Some schools just use a Word document to track their policies. This can work fine, but it does also bring with it the risk of overlooking or missing an overdue policy as it relies on someone manually skimming through the due dates to identify which policies are up next.

Perhaps a slightly better approach is to use a spreadsheet. On a more basic level you can at least sort by due date. Depending on your skill level you can get quite geeky and develop quite a sophisticated system.

For example, you could use Excel to calculate the due date for you, then use conditional formatting to RAG-rate the cells depending on when they are due – e.g. red if they are due, amber if they are due in the next few months, and green beyond that.

You could even get Excel to give you an overview, e.g. you have this many red policies, this many coloured amber, and this many green.

Having a clear summary is also useful as this offers a focus in senior leadership team meetings – e.g. we have five policies due in the next few months, who wants what? This is also useful to present in your headteacher report to governors – are your policies up-to-date? Yes, here is our current position.


Conclusion

Policies are really important and quite high stakes. They are important in the event of a complaint to demonstrate that the agreed practice was followed.

There are many ways in which you can manage your policies, and which you use is completely up to you, but you need to have something in place.

  • Craig McKee is a former primary headteacher who has worn most leadership hats and who specialised in ICT. He now runs Education Safeguarding, providing online safeguarding training and school website audits. The company has launched a School Policy Tracker website, which calculates the dates that your policies are due from the date they were ratified and provides RAG-rated summaries of statutory, non-statutory and all other policies: https://schoolpolicytracker.co.uk


Further information & resources


This material is protected by MA Education Limited copyright.
See Terms and Conditions.

Comments
Name
 
Email
 
Comments
 

Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
 
Sign up Headteacher update Bulletin
About Us

Headteacher Update is a magazine, website, podcast and regular ebulletin dedicated to the primary school leadership team. We tackle a wide range of leadership issues, offering best practice, case studies and in-depth information, advice and guidance. Headteacher Update magazine is distributed free to approximately 20,000 primary school headteachers.

Learn more about Headteacher update

Newsletter

Register to receive regular updates on primary education news delivered free to your inbox.