What is the Purpose of School Policies?

June 1, 2022
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Schools and other education settings are complex learning communities, involving many different roles and functions. In order for schools to be safe, supportive environments where students can learn and thrive, there needs to be clear procedures, structures, and expectations in place. Policies are a formal way of documenting the procedures and values of a school. In this article, we will look at the function of school policies, which policies schools should have in place, including statutory school policies, and provide general guidance surrounding writing effective policies. 


Why Do Schools Have Policies and Procedures?

Policies and procedures cover all aspects of school life. They can be written for a variety of audiences, depending on the subject, including students, parents, staff, and governors. Policies ensure that values are applied consistently, define clear expectations, and help provide a framework for employees and students alike. Staff are responsible for familiarising themselves with the school’s policies, and for following the procedures contained within them. 

Key general purposes of school policies include to:

  • Create a safe and productive environment for pupils and staff.
  • Communicate your schools’ core values and principles clearly to staff, parents, governors, and other bodies (including Ofsted).
  • Help staff carry out their duties effectively.
  • Help to attract prospective parents, pupils, staff, and governors to your setting.
  • Ensure the smooth running of the school – define the school’s rules, regulations, and procedures.
  • Ensure a consistent approach in key areas of school life, for example, behaviour.

Types of School Policy

Broadly speaking, school policies come under the following categories:

  • Statutory policies. Schools and academies are required by law to have these policies and documents in place.
  • Discretionary policies. These are additional policies a school or setting might wish to have in place but are not required by law.
  • Curriculum policies. These relate to specific areas of the curriculum. Most of these will be discretionary but some are statutory, such as a relationships and sex education policy.

What Are Statutory Policies?

Certain policies and documents are required to be in place by law. These usually cover major strategic areas, and the specific requirements differ according to the type of educational setting. The Department for Education keeps updated lists of statutory policies for schools and academies. 

List of statutory school policies

Click on the drop downs below to see which statutory policies are required in each area. For each policy, we have included the following information:

  • Which types of settings they apply to.
  • How often they should be reviewed.
  • Who needs to approve and review the policy or document.
  • Links to further statutory guidance.

Admission Arrangements Policies and Documentsdrop down menu

Admissions policy

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools and maintained nursery schools.
  • Academies.
  • Free schools, including university technical colleges and studio schools.
  • Voluntary-aided schools and foundation schools directly.
  • Community and voluntary-controlled schools – if the local authority formally delegates the responsibility.

Review:
The arrangements must be determined annually. Government guidance requires the setting to consult on any changes. Where no changes are made, consultation is required at least every seven years.

Approval: 
The full governing body or a committee of the governing body must approve, where the school is its own admissions authority.

Further guidance:

Administration and Data Policies and Documentsdrop down menu

Charging and Remissions

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools and maintained nursery schools.
  • Academies.
  • Free schools, including university technical colleges and studio schools.

This applies directly to academies and free schools via their funding agreements. 

Review:
Governing bodies can decide how often to review this policy but the DfE recommends an annual review.

Approval: 
The governing body can delegate approval to a committee of the governing body, an individual governor, or the headteacher.

Further guidance:

Data Protection

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools and maintained nursery schools.
  • Academies.
  • Free schools, including university technical colleges and studio schools.
  • Independent schools, not state-funded.
  • Sixth-form colleges.
  • Further education colleges with 16 to 19 provision.
  • Pupil referral units (PRUs).
  • Non-maintained special schools.
  • Non-maintained nursery schools.

Under the Data Protection (Charges and Information) Regulations 2018, schools must register with the Information Commissioner’s Office.

You must adhere to GDPR requirements. 

Review/Approval:
Annual registration with the information commissioner’s office is required.

The DfE advises that governing bodies, an individual governor, or headteacher review this requirement annually. 

Protection of biometric information of children in schools and colleges

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools and maintained nursery schools.
  • Academies including 16 to 19 academies.
  • Free schools, including university technical colleges and studio schools.
  • Independent schools, not state-funded.
  • Sixth-form colleges.
  • Pupil referral units (PRUs).
  • Non-maintained special schools.
  • Further education institutions.

Review:
The DfE recommends an annual review.

Further guidance:

Register of pupils’ admission to school and attendance

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools and maintained nursery schools.
  • Academies.
  • Free schools, including university technical colleges and studio schools.
  • Independent schools, not state-funded.
  • Pupil referral units (PRUs).
  • Non-maintained special schools.
  • Non-maintained nursery schools

Review/Approval:
This must be a live document. The governing body can delegate approval to a committee of the governing body, an individual governor, or the headteacher. The register itself can be kept by appropriate school staff.

Further guidance:

School information published on a website

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools.
  • Academies.
  • Free schools, including university technical colleges and studio schools.

Review:
This must be a live document that must be updated as soon as possible after a change, and at least annually. 

Approval:
The governing body can delegate approval to a committee of the governing body, an individual governor, or the headteacher. 

Further guidance:
Details of the information to include on websites:

School complaints

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools and maintained nursery schools.

The DfE also strongly advises academies to consider following the guidance.

Academies should have a written complaints procedure, which is available on request to parents. The DfE recommends that academies publish this online and make it available to anyone who requests it.

Review:
Governing bodies can decide how often to review this policy but the DfE recommends an annual review. 

Approval: 
The governing body or the proprietor can delegate approval to a committee of the governing body, an individual governor, or the headteacher.

Further guidance: 

Staffing and Human Resources Policies and Documentsdrop down menu

Capability of Staff

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools and maintained nursery schools.
  • Academies.
  • Independent schools, not state-funded.
  • Free schools.

Review:
The DfE recommends that governing bodies review this annually. 

Approval: 
The governing body of a local-authority-maintained school or management committee can delegate approval to a committee of the governing body or an individual governor. Academies can set their own terms for approval.

Further guidance:

Early Career Teachers (ECTs)

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools and maintained nursery schools.
  • Academies.
  • Free schools, including university technical colleges and studio schools.
  • Independent schools, not state-funded.
  • Sixth-form colleges.
  • Further education institutions.

Review:
The DfE recommends that governing bodies review this annually. 

Approval: 
The governing body must ensure that the school is compliant.

Further guidance:

Staff Discipline, Conduct and Grievance (Procedures for Addressing)

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools and maintained nursery schools.
  • Academies.
  • Free schools, including university technical colleges and studio schools.
  • Independent schools, not state-funded.
  • Sixth-form colleges.
  • Pupil referral units (PRUs).
  • Non-maintained special schools.

Review:
For local-authority-maintained schools, the governing body is free to decide how often you review. The DfE recommends that governing bodies review this annually. All other establishments may want to include this policy but should refer to general employment law.

Approval: 
For local-authority-maintained schools – the governing body must not delegate responsibility for establishing their staff discipline, conduct, or grievance procedures.

For academies – the governing body is free to delegate approval to a committee of the governing body, an individual governor, or the headteacher.

Further guidance:

Single Central Record of Recruitment and Vetting Checks

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools and maintained nursery schools.
  • Academies.
  • Free schools, including university technical colleges and studio schools.
  • Independent schools, not state-funded.
  • Sixth-form colleges.
  • Pupil referral units (PRUs).
  • Non-maintained special schools.
  • Non-maintained nursery schools.

This applies to all schools, colleges and further education institutions where early years education is delivered. They are linked to safeguarding policies.

Review: 
This is a live document covering staff currently appointed. Schools should also maintain a single central record of pre-employment checks.

Approval:
The governing body of a local-authority-maintained school or a management committee of a PRU is generally free to delegate approval to:

  • The headteacher.
  • One or more governors/members.
  • A committee of the governing body/management committee.
  • One or more governors/members acting with the headteacher.

Further guidance:

Statement of Procedures for Dealing with Allegations of Abuse Against Staff

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools and maintained nursery schools.
  • Academies.
  • Free schools, including university technical colleges and studio schools.
  • Independent schools, not state-funded.
  • Sixth-form colleges.
  • Further education colleges with 16 to 19 provision.
  • Pupil referral units (PRUs).
  • Non-maintained special schools.
  • Non-maintained nursery schools.

Review:
Governing bodies can decide how often to review this policy but the DfE recommends an annual review. 

Approval: 
The governing body or the proprietor can delegate approval to a committee of the governing body, an individual governor, or the headteacher.

Further guidance:

Teachers’ Pay

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools and maintained nursery schools.

Academies and free schools have greater freedoms than maintained schools.

Schools must follow the statutory guidance when making pay award decisions and creating their pay policies.

Review:
This must be reviewed annually.

Approval: 
The governing body or the local authority will need to approve.

Further guidance:

Pupil Wellbeing and Safeguarding Policiesdrop down menu

Accessibility Plan

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools.
  • Academies.
  • Free schools, including university technical colleges and studio schools.
  • Independent schools, not state-funded.
  • Sixth-form colleges.
  • Pupil referral units (PRUs).
  • Non-maintained special schools.

Review:
This should be reviewed every three years.

Approval: 
The governing body or the proprietor can delegate approval to a committee of the governing body, an individual governor, or the headteacher.

Further guidance:

Child Protection Policy and Procedures

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools and maintained nursery schools.
  • Academies.
  • Free schools, including university technical colleges and studio schools.
  • Independent schools, not state-funded.
  • Sixth-form colleges.
  • Pupil referral units (PRUs).
  • Non-maintained special schools.
  • Non-maintained nursery schools.

Review:
This should be reviewed and updated annually as a minimum.

Approval: 
The governing body or the proprietor must approve.

The policy should be available publicly on the school or college website, or elsewhere.

Further guidance:

Our Hub article, Creating A Safeguarding Policy, contains a useful template.

Child With Health Needs Who Cannot Attend School

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools.
  • Academies.
  • Free schools, including university technical colleges and studio schools.
  • Independent schools, not state-funded.
  • Where a child is not on the roll of a school.

Review:
The DfE recommends that governing bodies review this requirement annually.

Approval: 
The governing body must approve.

Further guidance:

Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools and maintained nursery schools.
  • Academies.
  • Free schools, including university technical colleges and studio schools.
  • Independent schools, not state-funded.
  • Pupil referral units (PRUs).
  • Non-maintained special schools.
  • Non-maintained nursery schools.

Those delivering the EYFS are required to have policies and procedures on a range of issues covering safeguarding and welfare.

Schools are not required to have separate policies to cover EYFS requirements where they are already met through an existing policy.

An EYFS profile assessment is required for each child during the academic year they reach the age of 5 (for most children this is the reception year in primary school).

Nursery settings catering for children under the age of three must complete a summary check when a child is aged two.

Review:
Review frequency varies. Further details are available in the statutory guidance.

Approval:
The governing body can determine approval. 

Further guidance:

Special Educational Needs and Disability

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools and maintained nursery schools.
  • Academies.
  • Free schools, including university technical colleges and studio schools.
  • Non-maintained nursery schools.

Review:
The SEN information report should be updated annually, and if any changes to the information occur during the year, these should be updated as soon as possible.

Approval:
The full governing body or proprietor must approve. 

Further guidance:

Supporting Pupils with Medical Conditions

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools and maintained nursery schools.
  • Academies, excluding 16 to 19 academies.
  • Pupil referral units (PRUs).

Review:
The governing body, proprietor, and management committee can decide how often this is reviewed. However, it should be regularly reviewed and readily accessible to parents and school staff.

Approval:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools – the governing body can approve.
  • Academies – proprietors can approve.
  • PRUs – the management committee can approve.

Further guidance:

Relationships Education (Primary) and Relationships and Sex Education (Secondary) Policiesdrop down menu

Relationships Education (Primary) and Relationships and Sex Education (Secondary)

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools.
  • Academies.
  • Pupil referral units (PRUs).
  • Non-maintained Special Schools.

Review:
The governing body can decide how often this is reviewed. The DfE advises that this is reviewed annually.

Approval:
The governing body or the proprietor can delegate approval to a committee of the governing body, an individual governor, or the headteacher.

Further guidance:

Behaviour Policies and Documentsdrop down menu

Behaviour in Schools

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools.
  • Academies.
  • Free schools, including university technical colleges and studio schools.
  • Pupil referral units (PRUs).
  • Non-maintained special schools.

Review:
The headteacher can decide how often this is reviewed. The DfE advises that this is reviewed annually.

Approval:
The headteacher can delegate approval for this.

Further guidance:

You may also find our Hub article, Creating A School Behaviour Management Policy, useful.

Behaviour Principles Written Statement

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools.
  • Pupil referral units (PRUs).
  • Non-maintained special schools.

Academies and free schools have greater freedoms than maintained schools. 

Independent schools must ensure:

  • A written behaviour policy is drawn up that sets out the sanctions to be adopted in the event of pupil misbehaviour.
  • The policy is implemented effectively.
  • A record is kept of the sanctions imposed upon pupils for serious misbehaviour.

Review:
The governing body can decide how often this is reviewed. The DfE advises that this is reviewed annually.

Approval:
The full governing body or a committee of the governing body must approve this.

Further guidance:

School Exclusion

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools.
  • Academies.
  • Free schools.
  • Pupil referral units (PRUs).

Review:
The DfE advises that this is reviewed annually.

Approval:
The governing body or the proprietor can delegate approval to a committee of the governing body, an individual governor, or the headteacher.

Further guidance:

Facilities Policies and Documentsdrop down menu

Health and Safety

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools and maintained nursery schools.
  • Academies.
  • Free schools, including university technical colleges and studio schools.
  • Independent schools, not state-funded.
  • Pupil referral units (PRUs).
  • Local authorities on behalf of community and voluntary-controlled schools.
  • Non-maintained nursery schools.

Review:
The governing body, proprietor, or local authority is free to decide how often it is reviewed. The DfE advises that governing bodies review this requirement annually.

Approval:
The employer can determine how to implement and approve.

Further guidance:

First Aid in Schools

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools.
  • Academies.
  • Free schools, including university technical colleges and studio schools.
  • Independent schools, not state-funded.
  • Sixth-form colleges.
  • Pupil referral units (PRUs).
  • Non-maintained nursery schools.

Review:
The DfE advises that governing bodies review this requirement annually.

Further guidance:

Premises Management Documents

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools.
  • Academies.
  • Free schools, including university technical colleges and studio schools.
  • Independent schools, not state-funded.
  • Sixth-form colleges.
  • Pupil referral units (PRUs).
  • Non-maintained special schools.

There are many aspects of school premises that require safe management and maintenance such as asbestos, fire safety, and statutory testing. Those with duties for maintaining school buildings should make sure that the policies, procedures, and the condition of the estate are compliant with appropriate legislation, including health and safety.

Independent schools, academies, and free schools have sole responsibility.

For local-authority-maintained schools, both local authorities and schools have responsibilities for the repair and maintenance of premises.

Review:
The DfE advises that governing bodies review this requirement annually.

Approval:
The governing body can delegate approval to a committee of the governing body, an individual governor, or the headteacher.

Further guidance:

Governance Policies and Documentsdrop down menu

Equality Information and Objectives (Public Sector Equality Duty) Statement for Publication

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools.
  • Academies.
  • Free schools, including university technical colleges and studio schools.
  • Pupil referral units (PRU).
  • Local authorities on behalf of PRUs.

Review:
Under specific duties, governing bodies, local authorities, and proprietors are required to draw up and publish equality objectives every four years and publish information annually. They need to demonstrate how they are meeting the aims of the general public sector equality duty.

Approval:
The governing body can delegate approval to a committee of the governing body, an individual governor, or the headteacher.

Governors’ Allowances (Schemes for Paying)

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools.

Academies and free schools have greater freedoms than maintained schools. Although this requirement is not mandatory for academies, the DfE strongly advises academies to consider following the guidance.

Review:
For local-authority-maintained schools with a delegated budget, the governing body is free to decide how often schemes for paying governors’ allowances are reviewed. The DfE advises that this is reviewed annually.

(Where schools do not have a delegated budget, the local authority may pay allowances and expenses at a rate determined by them.)

Approval: 
The governing body can delegate approval to a committee of the governing body, an individual governor, or the headteacher.

Instrument of Government

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools.

Review:
The governing body, proprietor, or local authority is free to decide how often it is reviewed. The DfE advises that governing bodies review this requirement annually.

Further guidance:

Register of Business Interests of Headteachers and Governors

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools and maintained nursery schools.
  • Academies.

Review:
This is a live document that should be updated as soon as possible after a change.

Approval:
The governing body can delegate approval subject to the local authority scheme.

Further guidance:

Careers Guidance Policies and Documentsdrop down menu

Careers Guidance

Applies to:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools.
  • Academies.
  • Free schools, including university technical colleges and studio schools.
  • Voluntary-aided schools and foundation schools.
  • Community and voluntary-controlled schools.
  • Pupil referral units (PRUs).

Schools must publish details of their careers programme for young people and their parents. They must also publish a statement setting out their arrangements for provider access.

Review:
The DfE advises that governing bodies review these annually.

Further guidance:


Sample of School Policies – Discretionary

In addition to the statutory policies, school leaders will want to produce a variety of discretionary policies to cover other areas of school life, including key curriculum areas. 

The full list would depend on the setting, but some common ones include:

  • Acceptable Use Policy
  • Anti-bullying Policy
  • Calculation Policy
  • Curriculum Policy
  • Educational Visits Policy
  • Finance Policy
  • Image Use Policy
  • Legionella Policy
  • Lockdown Policy
  • Mobile Phone and Devices Policy
  • Online Safety Policy
  • PE Policy
  • Remote Learning Policy
  • Risk Management Policy
  • Safer Recruitment Policy
  • Staff Expenses Policy
  • Teaching, Learning, and Assessment Policy

The following Hub articles contain guidance regarding additional  policies:


Writing School Policies

Policies should be clear, informative, and concise. When writing any policy, you should 

take your audience into account. Ensure that you do not use jargon and remove any ambiguous statements which could be misinterpreted. 

You need to consider how to make your policies accessible. Depending on your setting, this might include providing translated materials, providing paper copies for those without internet or printer access, or making sure you follow good practice with regards to making communications dyslexia friendly, for example.

The actual writing of policies can be delegated to any member of staff – with approval being given in line with the specific requirements for each policy. For example, curriculum policies are often written by those responsible for that area of the curriculum.

For some policies there is a legal requirement for them to be published on the school website, however many schools decide to share all their policies online. This enables parents, and other individuals, such as prospective employees, to easily access the information. Bear in mind that you will need to offer written copies if requested.

A setting may wish to organise policies into handbooks or group policies together (for example PSHE and British Values often sit well together). Separate handbooks can be created for staff, students, parents, etc, each containing the relevant policies and documents.

Reviewing Policies

Some statutory policies have specified review periods, as detailed in the drop downs above, whilst others are reviewed at the discretion of the leadership team. It is good practice to review all policies regularly. Each policy should state when that version was written and the date of the next pending review.

Reviewing policies ensures that the information remains up to date and in line with current legislation. For example, all relevant safeguarding policies should reflect regular changes in key guidance, such as Keeping Children Safe in Education (our Hub article is updated with key amendments as they are published). You may also find things need to be written into policies in response to particular circumstances – for example, reporting Covid-related absence. 


Policies should be accessible, accurate records of a setting’s procedures, values, and expectations. These documents help all members of the school community to work together to create a safe and enriching learning and working environment for all. 


Further Resources: