From September 2012 regulations changed so that schools are no longer required to publish a prospectus and have a curriculum policy, thus avoiding duplication of effort, and unnecessary cost. Instead, schools are required to publish key information online. This page contains answers to common questions about the changes in the regulations and comes courtesy of The National Archives (2012). The original article can be found here.

What if a school does not have a website?

Schools will need to ensure they have the facility to publish the specified content online and staff resource to create and maintain the content by September 2012.

Most schools already have their own websites, or make arrangements to publish information on the web through a commercial company or local authority offering schools an ‘online presence’.

Will academies and Free Schools also have to publish this new key information online?

Academies and Free Schools are already required to publish much of the above information through their Funding Agreements, the Independent Schools Regulations or the information is published centrally by the DfE. This includes their SEN policy, approach to the curriculum, arrangements for admissions, discipline and exclusions, behaviour and anti-bullying policy, as well as the results of attainment tests and public examinations.

Funding Agreements will also ensure new academies publish the same information as maintained schools, including their Pupil Premium allocation, spend and impact on attainment.

What other changes will be made to The School Information (England) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/3093)?

In addition to the information that schools publish online, local authorities continue to have a duty to ensure that parents receive the help and support they need to work through the admissions process. The proposed changes to the School Information Regulations do not change that local authority duty to produce a composite prospectus every year to help parents to understand and make informed choices about their child’s education.

Following a national consultation the DfE has published a revised School Admissions and Appeals Code to remove duplication and over-prescription and make it simpler, fairer and more transparent, building on the principle of placing trust back in schools and head teachers. The Codes came into force on 1 February 2012. The provisions in the School Admissions Code take full affect on admissions arrangements being locally determined in respect of the pupil intake for the 2013/14 academic year and thereafter. However, all appeals lodged on or after 1 February 2012 will be dealt with under the provisions in the Appeals Regulations 2012 and the School Admission Appeals Code.

What are the minimum ‘key’ information areas to publish online and what is meant by ‘details’?

This will include for all schools:

  • details of the school’s pupil premium allocation and plans to spend it in the current year; and, for the previous year, a statement of how the money was spent and the impact that it had on educational attainment of those pupils at the school in respect of whom grant funding was allocated;
  • details of the school’s curriculum, content and approach, by academic year and by subject (including details of GCSE options and other qualifications offered at Key Stage 4 (for secondary schools), and approach to phonic and reading schemes (for primary schools));
  • where applicable, details or links to the school’s admission arrangements, including its selection and oversubscription criteria, published admission number and the school’s process for applications through the local authority ;
  • details of the school’s policies on behaviour, charging and SEN and disability provision;
  • links to the school’s Ofsted reports and DfE School Performance Tables and details of the school’s latest Key Stage 2 and/or Key Stage 4 attainment and progress measures as presented in the School Performance Tables;
  • a statement of the school’s ethos and values.

All schools will need to ensure that they continue to comply with any separate requirements that apply in respect of developing specific policies and communicating them.

Various public announcements have been made encouraging schools to also publish their arrangements for setting pupils, home school agreement, music education opportunities and sports and fixtures information – are these no longer a priority?
The proposed changes in the regulations will give schools both increased scope to decide the information they wish to publish online and have a greater flexibility as to how regularly they update it.

Schools are indeed encouraged to publish any information above the minimum key areas that they, local parents and the wider community feel they may need to make effective school choice and performance decisions.

Will removing the bureaucratic burdens of producing a prospectus reduce parental choice?

Government is committed to providing schools with greater flexibility and felt that requiring all schools to produce and pay for the publishing of a printed document every year was a considerable burden on them. The Government is determined, however, to support parents in choosing schools for their children and ensure that schools remain accountable for their performance to parents and the wider community.

Because the only content requirement for the school prospectus is the school’s SEN policy, it is not felt that the legal requirement to publish a school prospectus significantly strengthens a parents’ ability to make effective decisions of choice or assess performance.

The intention to require schools to publish key information online, alongside information published by the Department and Ofsted, will enable parents to compare schools more effectively. Schools may have to provide a hard copy of the information if requested by parents but that can be as simple as a printout of part of the website. Schools will, of course, be free to continue to market themselves through a printed prospectus if they so wish.

How will parents who do not have access to the internet access this information?

For those parents who cannot access the internet or who find hard copies of materials more accessible, the regulations will require schools to continue to provide a hard copy where parents request it – this can be simply met by printing a hard copy of the online information.

Is there a DfE format or template that schools need to use in publishing the required information online?

The Department will not be prescribing templates or guidance on how schools should report the required information as the intention is that schools provide the information in a way that is appropriate and meaningful to their own community. Schools may use formats or templates provided by other organisations if they wish