Social and Parental


Data included in this topic cover very wide-ranging issues including free school meals and general pupil and parental welfare issues. Many of the information items will be of particular interest to parents, for example bullying and behaviour.

There are a number of statutory responsibilities on schools with regard to behaviour, including a requirement for a behaviour policy. The most recent guidance from the DfE was published in January 2016. It says that:

  • Teachers have power to discipline pupils for misbehaviour which occurs in school and, in some circumstances, outside of school.
  • The power to discipline also applies to all paid staff with responsibility for pupils, such as teaching assistants (unless the headteacher says otherwise).
  • Headteachers, proprietors and governing bodies must ensure they have a strong behaviour policy to support staff in managing behaviour, including the use of rewards and sanctions.
  • Governing bodies of maintained schools have a duty under section 175 of the Education Act 2002 requiring them to make arrangements to ensure that their functions are carried out with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. The proprietors of Academies have a similar duty under paragraph 7 of Schedule 1 to the Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2010. They must ensure that arrangements are made to safeguard and promote the welfare of pupils.

The Equality Act 2010 also requires schools to have regard to their Equality Duty, including the elimination of discrimination, harassment and victimisation. In October 2011 Charlie Taylor, the then Government adviser on behaviour, published a checklist on classroom management to encourage good behaviour. The most recent advice regarding dealing with bullying from the DfE was published in October 2014. Research from the DfE published in 2015 indicates that bullying has decreased in recent years.

The amount of Pupil Premium (see Funding Commentary) schools receive is related to the number of pupils they have eligible for free school meals so there is an incentive for schools to encourage parents to register. Guidance on the allocation of pupil premium was updated in July 2015.

In England, children may be eligible for free school meals if their parents or they are in receipt of:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseekers’ Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • the Guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (provided they are not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
  • Working Tax Credit run-on – paid for four weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit

In July 2013, the Department published the School Food Plan, which is the outcome of the review of school food commissioned by the Secretary of State for Education in July 2012. The plan contains 16 specific actions aimed at further increasing the quality and take up of school meals, developing a whole-school food culture in every school and ‘exciting children about good food and cooking so that they can lead healthy lives’. Standards for School Food in England were published in January 2015 and are due to be revised. They cover requirements to provide food to registered pupils, the provision of milk and the free fruit and vegetables scheme. From September 2014 primary schools have been required to provide free, nutritious, hot meals to four- to seven-year-olds.

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner is funded by the DfE. Its remit is to promote the views and best interests of children and young people in England. A progress report on the recommendations of the independent review of the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood by Reg Bailey was published by the DfE in June 2013. It reported some good progress on some of its recommendations.


Ofsted inspects schools for behaviour and publishes results yearly. For schools inspected between 1 September 2014 and 31 August 2015 86% of schools were judged good or outstanding on behaviour.

The Statistical First Release Schools, pupils and their characteristics, published in June 2015, provides statistics on pupils known to be eligible for and claiming free school meals. It reported that in maintained nursery, state-funded primary, state-funded secondary, special schools and pupil referral units overall the proportion of was 15.2% – a drop from 16.3% in 2014 and from 17.1 % in 2013.

Current issues

The Government has been encouraging provision of parenting classes. A recent speech by the Prime Minister put this issue back on the agenda. A trial started in 2012 in three local authority areas for parents of children aged 0-5 tested out “how to establish a new market” in parenting classes for all parents. An offer of free universal parenting classes, face-to-face and online, was made to all parents of children aged five years and under in Middlesbrough, High Peak in Derbyshire, and Camden in London. All mothers and fathers in the trial areas with children five years old and under were entitled to a voucher covering the cost of a programme of parenting classes. The evaluation of the trial showed that, at the end of the two years, only 6% of eligible parents had taken up the offer.

The latest advisor on school behaviour was appointed in June 2015. Tom Bennett is tasked with helping schools combat low-level disruption.

The NASUWT regularly surveys how much parents are having to pay for school uniform, visits etc. The survey published in 2015 reported increased spending, for example:

  • two thirds of parents said that uniform had to be purchased from a particular supplier, compared to 57% in 2013. Nearly half of parents (48%) said the same for PE kit and equipment, up from 44% in 2013
  • the cost of trips and excursions has increased, with well over a quarter of parents now spending over £200 per year and increasing numbers unable to afford to pay for their children to participate

Food continues to be an issue for schools. The provision of school meals for KS1 pupils may have resulted in a drop of numbers claiming free school meals but the DfE noted that there had been a drop in all age groups. There was concern that the requirement to provide free school meals for infants would be dropped in the spending review. This does not appear to have happened. Research indicating that children who eat a good breakfast achieve more academically will put more pressure on schools to provide breakfast.

Government policy to discourage parents from taking holiday in term time with fines to parents who ignore this advice continues to be a lively issue. In October 2015 the Local Government Association called for a more flexible approach to allow headteachers not to automatically fine parents who take children out of school during term time.

January 2016

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