Our School Compliance Survey 2022 highlighted an issue many schools are facing – there are too many policies to keep up with. In this article, we ask: “How many policies is too many policies?”

The essentials

There are some policies that schools must have in place. There are approximately 32 statutory policies and documents for a maintained school and 28 for an academy. Schools are legally required to have these policies in place; however, sometimes they do not have to be standalone policies. You can find a full list of statutory policies in the Statutory Policy Toolkit on TheSchoolBus.

Aside from statutory policies, there are some policies that the government strongly recommends schools have. For example, an academy isn’t required to have a Behaviour Principles Written Statement, but the DfE strongly advises academies to have one in place.

Maintained schools may be required by their LA to have certain policies in place that aren’t considered statutory. Similarly, academies may be required to have certain non-statutory policies in place due to trust arrangements. It’s important, therefore, to check your local or trust arrangements to see if there are any other policies you need to have in place aside from the standard statutory documents.

What about other policies?

Many schools have policies in place that are not statutory or otherwise required – these are often known as good practice or non-statutory policies.

While having a policy can be a good way of showing that a school has thought about a certain issue and has procedures in place to manage it, there is a danger of ending up with too many policies which can become difficult to maintain. Having too many policies can lead to a variety of issues, such as making the approval, distribution and reading process overwhelming.

The overall management of policies can also become very difficult if you have a lot of them. The role of the compliance officer has been emerging in schools, especially over the last few years – one of their key roles tends to be overseeing policies. For many schools, however, having a dedicated compliance officer is simply not viable. The responsibility of policy management can often fall with the SBM, who already has a lot of duties, or shared between a few staff which could lead to an inconsistent approach.

On the other hand, schools need to make sure they have good practice policies in place to ensure the needs of their specific school circumstances are met. For example, if a school has a high proportion of pupils with mental health difficulties, it may be a good idea to have a policy in place setting out the approach to identifying and supporting these pupils to ensure this approach is delivered consistently across the school. Alternatively, a school that does not keep animals on the school site is unlikely to need a Keeping Animals in School Policy. 

It’s important to have a balance between having the policies you need in place for your school’s circumstances, while not having too many which may lead to ineffective policy management and overwhelm – but this can be a difficult balance to strike.  

The following flowchart may help when deciding if you need a policy:

 

Reviewing policies in line with constant government changes

For statutory policies, there are required and recommended review and approval timescales. Most statutory policies need to be reviewed at least annually, and some are live documents.

There are no set guidelines around how often good practice policies should be reviewed. It is, however, important that all policies are kept up-to-date even where there is no statutory review requirement. You should set the review frequency for your good practice policies depending on what the policy covers – for example, an ICT Policy may need to be reviewed more frequently than others due to the changing nature of technology.

Many schools will have robust policy review cycles in place; however, these timetables can be disrupted if a policy needs to be updated mid-cycle because of a change to government guidance. If a policy is affected by a change to statutory guidance, the DfE advises that the policy needs to be updated as soon as possible to ensure it is compliant rather than waiting for the next review cycle.

If you have a lot of policies, it’s more likely that your set policy review schedule is going to be disrupted by changes to government guidance. This can make the process trickier and more time consuming as you’re having to review more policies at more points throughout the year.

One of the respondents to the School Compliance Survey 2022 offered a way to tackle this issue. They advised keeping policies as general as possible, meaning that they may be less likely to need updating if the guidance they are based on is updated. Then you can have more detailed procedures as policy appendices as these are easier to update and they often don’t need to be approved by the full governing board. This is just one option that schools can consider.  

Again, it’s all about finding a balance that works for your school community.

What’s next?

At TheSchoolBus, we recognise that the abundance of template good practice policies we have could add to the stress around schools feeling like they need to have a policy for every issue. We understand that this can be overwhelming. We want to make it clear that you are not required to have all the good practice policies in place that we have templates for. We offer these templates to make sure if your school does need a good practice policy to suit its specific needs, you have a ready-made model policy.

We can also help with your policy management process, as we understand that keeping up-to-date with policy changes can be difficult when you’re busy. With our Policy Management product, you can have these changes sent to you with an updated policy template, so you’re ready to take immediate action! Find out more here or book your free tutorial today.

Bibliography

DfE (2021) ‘Statutory policies for schools and academy trusts’ <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/statutory-policies-for-schools-and-academy-trusts>

Please note that some quotes from the School Compliance Survey 2022 have been edited for clarity.