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Purdah: considerations for schools and academies

21 Apr 2017, by PNS Media in Academy Conversion, Academy Sponsorship, Due Diligence, Education News, Free Schools, General, Latest News, School Improvement

When we enter purdah on 22nd April, central and local government will be prevented from making announcements about any new or controversial government initiatives. Any major decisions on policy will also be postponed until after the purdah period unless it is in the national interest to proceed or a delay would waste public money.

We would like to share with you what this period may mean for schools and academies, and their advisers. These considerations are relevant to new schools in the pre-opening phase, as well as schools and academies that are already open, particularly those in the middle of change.

A summary of the rules and regulations:

– Any national or local political decisions are not allowed if they are deemed political in nature, e.g. a white paper, approval of new free schools to the pre-opening phase, or entering into new funding agreements.

– Civil servants will only be permitted to provide factual briefings when asked, which must then be made available to all relevant candidates.

– Ministers are still allowed to be involved in urgent and unavoidable circumstances, e.g. natural disasters or terrorism.

– Primary and secondary legislation cannot be published once Parliament is not sitting.

– As schools in the state sector are deemed public buildings, various rules apply. If access is allowed to one candidate, it must be offered to all other candidates. Schools can block any visits during hours when it might be deemed as a disruption to the role of the school.

– Schools should normally be open to public meeting requests by candidates, e.g. a debate, but this must be available to all candidates. Other planned school activities, e.g. after-school clubs, could also be considered a disruption and so access may be denied at that time.

– All existing legislation, such as health and safety and unsupervised access to children, remains in place.

– If a school or proposed school is or will be in formal public consultation, it might be appropriate to extend the consultation period until after the elections. Shortening a previously announced consultation is not allowed. It might be appropriate to delay or carry out a further fresh consultation after the elections if responses to the consultation might be out of date.

– Schools can be asked to be polling stations.

Some other points to consider:

– During elections, Freedom of Information requests can increase and all best efforts to provide answers quickly is expected.

– It is often best for schools and those associated in a formal way (e.g. Trust member) to avoid political engagement unless in a clear personal capacity.

– All proposed policies during the election will need to go through Parliament as normal.

– Any policy announced and implemented must be addressed after the election. This might include any additional transition funding formula approaches or increases in the overall school budget totals.

– Keeping abreast of relevant educational plans announced during the election is good practice, especially if these might subsequently require a formal response, e.g. any possible request to convert to a grammar school.

– Schools and academies should keep parents in the loop, for example, if the school is taking on a polling station role.

– It will not be clear whether the role of individuals might change until they are confirmed ministers or elected members, even if no overall political change happens. This may cause administration delays.

Premier New Schools’ primary purpose is to deliver high-quality support to schools, academies and Trusts to meet the challenges of a changing education landscape.

If you would like to discuss how Premier New Schools can help your school or academy, please get in touch.

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