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5 schools that broke the rules

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I have a confession to make: I love rules. You know where you are with rules. Rules make sure life doesn’t get out of hand. Daunted by uncontained levels of fun? Stick a rule on proceedings, and fret no more.

This is why I like schools. For a start, ‘school’ rhymes with ‘rule’, and I feel like this can’t be a coincidence. (It also rhymes with ‘fool’, ‘drool’ and ‘toadstool’, but I’ve not decided on the significance of these things just yet.)

Schools are good places for children to learn about the gloriousness of rules, because schools themselves are subject to a caboodle of different requirements. Keeping on top of these isn’t always the picnic a diehard fan of rules might expect; just figuring out whether one’s school is compliant with statutory requirements is a hefty task. We've noticed that this takes up a lot of time and brain space for school leaders. So this week The Key launched Compliance Tracker, a tool to help members make sure their school is meeting its obligations.

And not a moment too soon because, as you will see from the five examples below, even the greatest schools imaginable can fall drastically short of the rules.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

From the three-headed beasts on the third floor to the aggressive trees in the grounds to the uncontrolled hazardous substances flowing freely in the potions lab, every inch of this school reveals a flagrant disregard for health and safety.

At no point in seven whole books is a suitable and sufficient assessment of risks carried out. Not even before a great, final battle between the forces of good and evil takes place on the school site, when you’d have thought a solid risk assessment would be particularly important.

One thing Hogwarts has going for it is a highly effective travel plan, resulting in minimal traffic around the school entrances. Pity this isn’t a statutory requirement.


Springfield Elementary School

Once a pupil is enrolled, any decision about moving that pupil to a different year group rests with the school.

Having said that, Bart and Lisa Simpson have been in the same year groups for a very long time now. Nearly 28 years, in fact, which makes Lisa the same age now that Homer was when The Simpsons began.

I shall pause here while we all work through the mini existential crisis brought on by that fact.

Maybe I missed the episode where Principal Skinner discusses deferring pupil progression with Mr and Mrs Simpson, the local authority and an educational psychologist. Alternatively, we may need to accept that Springfield Elementary is in breach of the School Admissions Code.

While we’re here, I would also question whether the school has an effective behaviour policy in place, because Bart is in detention a lot and I can’t say I’ve seen any marked improvement in his conduct.


Lowood School

Lowood School, the oppressive institution attended by Jane Eyre, wins no brownie points for its failure to meet the School Food Standards. Or its abusive and humiliating discipline policy. Or its sustained efforts to crush children’s souls. (That last point isn’t explicitly addressed in any education requirements, but I think we can agree that the crushing of souls is not recommended practice.)

The freezing conditions in the school are not so much of an issue, believe it or not – the Education (School Premises) Regulations 2012 do not specify a minimum or maximum temperature for school buildings. But the lethal typhus epidemic is a step too far, and headteacher Mr Brocklehurst is finally put out of a job.

Let that be an example to those Victorian tyrants among you who think you can run a school how you please, simply because it is the mid-1800s.


Rydell High School

The perfect example of why effective personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education is so important. Imagine how different Grease may have been if Danny, Sandy and friends had spent less time jiving and more time learning about positive relationships.

But PSHE education is not a statutory requirement, which leaves the students of Rydell High free to make an epic soundtrack and all the poor life choices they please.

Verdict: COMPLIANT but dear me, what shenanigans

Malory Towers

Another boarding school, another batch of breached health and safety regulations.

As a child, I couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than becoming a pupil at Malory Towers. (I’d noticed that the admissions policy for Hogwarts was quite selective, so accepted that was likely to be off the cards.) Apart from the jolly japes and midnight feasts, the biggest appeal was the seawater swimming pool built into the rocks, which naturally refills with each tide.

That is until I put down Enid Blyton and picked up the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

That pool is a death trap. It’s not even properly supervised, let alone by a qualified life guard with up-to-date first aid training.

At least Blyton has the excuse that Malory Towers precedes the Health and Safety at Work Act by nearly 30 years. We can take comfort in the knowledge that were she writing today, Malory Towers’ beautiful pool would be cordoned off by all the hazard warning tape the budget could afford, and pupils would wave sadly at it from the coach on their termly trip to the local sports centre.


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