Other legal obligations

As the employer, the governing body will be required to produce evidence of establishing, operating and reviewing its oversight and systems in relation to the following legislation:

Safeguarding

It is acknowledged that there is no single piece of legislation that covers the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults in the UK, but rather a plethora of laws and guidance that are continually being amended, updated and revoked. A child or young person is an individual up to their 18th birthday. A vulnerable adult is a person aged 18 or over 'who is or may be in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness; and who is or may be unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation' (Law Commission Report 1997).

All organisations that work with children and vulnerable adults have a responsibility to safeguard and promote their welfare. They must ensure they have in place safeguarding and safer recruitment policies and practices, including enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service Checks (DBS) – formerly Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks – for specific roles.

 

Checklist for overseeing safeguarding

In order to achieve success in overseeing safeguarding, your organisation will need to have the following in place:

  • high-quality leadership and management that make safeguarding a priority across all aspects of the organisation’s work
  • stringent and appropriate checking procedures in place for staff and other adults
  • rigorous safeguarding policies and procedures in place, written in plain English, compliant with statutory requirements and updated regularly
  • safeguarding arrangements that are accessible to everyone, so that everyone knows who they can talk to if they are worried
  • excellent communication systems with up-to-date information that can be accessed and shared by those who need it
  • a high priority given to regular training in safeguarding, generally going beyond basic requirements, extending expertise widely and building internal capacity
  • robust arrangements for site security, understood and applied by staff, learners and visitors
  • a curriculum that is used to promote safeguarding, not least through empowering learners to stay safe, to protect themselves from harm and how to take responsibility for their own and others’ safety
  • responsible behaviour by the learners, enabling everyone to feel secure and well-protected
  • well thought-out and workable day-to-day arrangements to protect and promote learners’ health and safety 
  • risk assessments used to good effect in promoting safety
  • statutory compliance and ensuring governors understand their responsibilities

Data Protection

The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) aims to balance the right of individuals to privacy and the need for institutions to process personal information for their legitimate business purposes. The purpose of the Act is to protect the rights and privacy of individuals and to ensure that the information (data) that is held about them is processed only with their knowledge and consent.

The DPA only applies to personal data (i.e. information which relates to a living individual who can be identified from that information). Consent for processing is only required for 'sensitive personal data', that is, information about an individual’s racial or ethnic origin, political opinion, religion, beliefs, sexual life, alleged criminal activity, and court proceedings.

The DPA covers all records and information held by a college, whether this is digital or print, current or archived.

The Act gives individuals certain rights regarding the personal information held about them and places certain obligations, in the form of eight principles, on those who process the personal information. Under Section (1) of the Act, ‘processing’ refers to anything that is done with the data. The people who determine the purpose and manner in which the information is processed are referred to as data controllers (such as a college), and those whose data are subject to process are known as data subjects (such as learners, staff and alumni).

Part of the requirements of the DPA relates to the processing of personal data, which is how data is obtained, held and stored. It also covers processes operating within the organisation related to disclosure, retrieval, storage and use of data and its destruction. In fact it applies to any activity relating to personal data.

There are eight data protection principles which govern the manner in which data is collected, stored and processed:

  • Personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully
  • Personal data shall be obtained only for specified and lawful purposes
  • Personal data should be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose or purposes for which it is processed
  • Personal data should be accurate, and when necessary kept up-to-date
  • Personal data should not be kept for longer than is necessary for the purpose for which it was collected
  • Personal data should only be processed in accordance with the rights of individuals under the DPA – the main one being the individual’s right of access to data held about him or her
  • Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss, destruction or damage to personal data
  • Personal data shall not be transferred to a country outside the EU unless that country adequately protects personal data

There is a wide range of personal data kept by colleges, mainly about staff and learners. In addition to factual information, this includes expressions of opinion, and photographic images captured on CCTV and collected via security cards. The DPA has been amended by the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to enhance the rights of individuals to see more of their personal information. It now covers 'any other personal data' held by a public authority, information referred to as 'unstructured' personal data.

Health and safety

Health and safety is not just about preventing slips, trips and falls. It is also about supporting personal well-being and maximising physical and mental health.

Only those people employed directly on a contract of employment with the governing body are its actual employees, but it has legal responsibilities for all other types of workers.

Colleges are required by law to manage health and safety at work effectively by ensuring that they:

  • provide a written health and safety policy
  • assess risks to employees, students, partners and others affected by their operations
  • arrange for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of preventive and protective measures
  • ensure they have access to competent health and safety advice
  • consult employees about their risks at work and current preventive and protective measures

Failure to comply may lead to serious consequences for a college, for relevant individuals and the organisation's reputation – punishment could include fines, imprisonment and disqualification.

Whilst governing bodies will delegate many health tasks to others, such as professional health and safety employees or consultants, they have the ultimate responsibility for health and safety matters in a college.

Equality and diversity

Governors and clerks have a significant role in creating and maintaining an inclusive organisation where everyone can work, learn and reach their full potential.

The difference between equality and diversity

Although the terms are linked, they have a different emphasis. Equality is about creating a fairer society where everyone can participate and have the opportunity to fulfil their potential – to live as equal citizens in society free from discrimination and harassment.

Diversity is about respecting, valuing and celebrating aspects that make us unique as individuals – recognising that we contribute to our society because of these aspects not in spite of them.

The business case for diversity

All good further education providers want the very best for their staff, irrespective of background, identity and circumstance. They strive to create a culture and ethos of inclusion and respect. Embedding equality and diversity throughout a college will help it to:

  • recruit from the widest pool of applicants to attract and retain the most talented staff
  • create a confident, skilled and highly motivated workforce
  • achieve high success rates and outcomes from inspection
  • become the employer and provider of choice in the locality