Education Law in the 21st Century

While it is not an area of law in which a great many cases are undertaken, the cases and issues that end up arising and being litigated in the education law area tends to prove to be very significant. This has been the history of education law and remains the reality in this day and age. Through this article you are provided an overview of some of the more significant and transitory issues associated with education law in this day and age.

A good many of the cases that have arisen in the education law arena have centered on equal access to educational opportunities based upon issues pertaining to ethnicity, race, sex and religion. Some of the most significant issues pertaining to education law have involved access to educational experiences by people of minority races. Of course, the most significant case in this regard actually was handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1959. The case of Brown vs. Board of Education brought an end to the concept of “separate but equal”, which guided educational systems across the United States.

Although the Brown case was handed down by the Supreme Court many years ago, there remain issues that still arise when it comes to making sure that minority students have an appropriate access to educational opportunities in the country. For example, many school districts became embroiled in cases involving the busing of students to achieve racial equality when it came to educational systems, only in recent times have attendant issues been resolved.

Some of the newer issues and cases involving race, sex and related issues and education law have centered on access to scholarships and other educational financing opportunities. There are still cases that arise in which a contention is made that certain financing options are not fully available to all individuals.

Most recently, many of the cases involving education law issues have involved individuals with physical or other types of impairments. The goal in regard to these cases is to work to ensure that educational opportunities are made regularly and fully available to people no matter their physical status. (Related cases also center on individuals who have some sort of intellectual or mental health issue as well.)

Finally, another active area in education law in this day and age involves public school financing. First of all, there are cases that center upon working to ensure that all public school systems in a particular state are fairly funded. Second, there are cases and issues that focus upon the funding of private school educational experiences. Legislative leaders have also found themselves involved in developing new laws to attempt to deal with these two types of issues in more recent years – a trend that is expected to carry forth into the future.

There remain lawyers in business today who are specializing in education law. More often than not these attorneys are most frequently involved in ensuring that people have an even and equal access to appropriate and meaningful educational opportunities.

Education Law and Faith Schools

According to recent estimates, almost a third of all schools in England and Wales are faith schools, and almost a quarter of all children are educated in a faith school. These types of schools were a key plank in the labour government’s strategy for education, and the Coalition has indicated that it will continue to increase the amount of educational services which are provided by religious groups.

There are three types of faith schools: voluntary aided, voluntary controlled and independent religious schools, and different rules apply to each of these.

Voluntary Controlled Faith Schools
These are schools which are funded by the state and where the state is responsible for the day-to-day management and control of the school. The buildings and land are owned by a religious group, and that religious group has the right to appoint the governors and often the head teacher, but other teachers are employed by the local education authority. The appointment of these teachers is subject to the same conditions as teachers in regular state schools and there is no requirement that the teachers profess the same faith as the religious group which established the school.

In voluntary controlled faith schools, the admissions policy is set and administered by the local education authority. This means that these types of schools are usually open to all students and there is no requirement that the student has an attachment to the faith held by the religious group which established the school.

Voluntary Aided Faith Schools
These are schools which are funded by the state but are managed and controlled by a religious group. The religious group owns the land and buildings, appoints the governors of the school and selects and appoints teachers. All teachers are directly employed by the religious group, and it is lawful for the religious group to require teachers to profess the same faith and to discipline staff for breaching religious principles or acting in a way which is inconsistent with the schools ethos.

In voluntary aided faith schools, the admissions policy is determined and enforced by the governors of the school. This means that very often prospective students are required to demonstrate some adherence to the religious principles on which the school is founded.

Independent Faith Schools
These are schools which are entirely funded and controlled by a religious group. The religious group appoints the governors and employs all of the staff as well as setting the admissions policy. Independent faith schools often require both teachers and students to be professing members of a particular religious sect or denomination, and can discipline both staff and students if they act in a way which is inconsistent with the schools ethos and religious values.

Teaching in Faith and Religious Schools
Both voluntary aided and voluntary controlled faith schools are required to teach the national curriculum, and students will cover the same subjects as pupils in other state maintained schools. The only exception to this is in the case of religious education, where faith schools are allowed to set their own curriculum which will usually focus on the religious beliefs held by the charity or church which founded the school. Voluntary aided and voluntary controlled schools are also entitled to insist that religious education is taught by a professing member of a particular faith or denomination.

There is no requirement for independent faith schools to teach the national curriculum and these schools will set their own subjects and studies.

For a variety or reasons, ranging from smaller class sizes to higher standards of discipline many faith schools have better league table results than other state run schools and this makes them highly desirable. Many parents will consider legal challenges to admission criteria to try and get their children a place.

Why Do You Need an Education Law Solicitor?

As there’s many aspects of law that effect the education sector, if you work for a school, college or university, then you’re likely to need the help and advice of of an education law solicitor.

Here’s why you’ll need help with education law.

1. Education establishments need to accountable, and so need to do everything properly, and within the law. If you’re not sure about best practice, or how best to manage, why not see how an education law solicitor can help.

2. As health and safety is such a concern for parents of pupils, it needs to be taken care of. No matter whether conducting a science experiment, or planning a trip abroad, the activity will need to meet the relevant legislations, and the risks will need to be fully assessed.

3. Your policies for pupil and staff discipline will need to be checked regularly to ensure that they are still up to date and valid, and that they are enforceable, and comply with relevant laws.

4. Employment laws still apply in educational establishments, so you’ll need to be aware of laws regarding working hours, staff contracts and workers’ rights.

5. Remember that your recruitment policies need to be fair, and that there is no discrimination within your education establishment. You’ll also need to make sure that all necessary checks are carried out on new staff too.

6. It’s important that staff contracts, and internal policies regarding IT are reviewed regularly to ensure that they are up to date and legally binding. If you’re not sure, why not speak to an education law solicitor?

7. You might be dealing with many suppliers and have lots of contracts for supplying cleaners, meals, emergency cover teachers, IT systems and more. You’ll want to make sure that you’re getting the best deals, and that you’re not being treated unfairly.

8. As some schools and colleges rely on donations and funding, it’s important that all of the money is accounted for, and that the school is run in a right and proper way in order to meet the legal requirements.

9. Perhaps you’re involved in estate management, and buying and selling school grounds or buildings. You’ll want to make sure that you get the best deals, and that you meet the legal requirements, so as not to fall foul of the law.

10. If you’re considering expanding the school, you’ll want to obtain planning permission, and to make sure that it is in the best interests of the school. There will also be construction and environmental laws that will need to be considered too.