Schools and Academies – Legal Responsibility and Health & Safety

The legal responsibility (and thus the accountability) for Health and Safety lies with the employer.

So, in different types of schools: who is the employer?

This will depend on the category of school.  In England, the Local Authority is the employer in:

  • Community schools, community special schools, voluntary controlled schools, maintained nursery schools and pupil referral units.

The Governing Body is the employer in:

  • Foundation schools, foundation special schools, voluntary aided schools, academies and free schools

The proprietor is the employer in independent schools.

Note: Although overall accountability lies with the school employer, other senior school managers involved in the day to day running of the school also have responsibility for the health and safety of staff and pupils.

Scotland: the majority of schools are state-owned and operated by local authorities and so the local authority is the employer.  There are a few grant-aided schools, which are independent of local authorities, but which are supported financially by the Scottish Government. The Governing Body, or equivalent, is the employer. For independent schools, the proprietor, Board of Trustees or equivalent, is the employer.

Voluntary Controlled Schools

The Local Authority (LA) is the employer and has overall responsibility for health and safety compliance. This responsibility cannot be devolved. The LA must provide oversight and monitoring.

A Voluntary Controlled school is usually a religious or faith school, where the land and buildings are owned by a charity (often religious) but the local education authority funds the school, runs it, and employs the staff.

Voluntary Aided Schools

The governing body is the employer and so is responsible for health and safety. There is no legal requirement for Voluntary Aided Schools to adopt LA policies and procedures. Some LAs may make their services and recommendations available to Voluntary Aided Schools for which they make a charge.

A Voluntary Aided school is usually a religious or faith school, where the land and buildings are owned by a charity (often religious) but the governing body runs the school and employs the staff, and the school is jointly funded by the local education authority, the governing body and the charity.