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New proposals which will allow parents to receive letters from their ...
New proposals which will allow parents to receive letters from their

children's school by email have been announced by education and

skills minister John Healey.

The proposed changes which are up for consultation will not make

electronic communication compulsory but instead will clarify it as an

alternative to the traditional letter home. Parents will have the

right to give prior consent to receiving emails rather than letters

and they will be free to withdraw that consent at any point. As well

as views on these specific proposals, the paper also seeks views on

what further changes to the law may be needed.

John Healey said:

'This consultation reflects the government's determination to bring

the benefits of the information age to all aspects of public service

delivery. The government has set a target of making all government

services - local as well as central - available online by 2005. To

enable this to happen any legal barriers to electronic communication

must be removed, and the law clarified where necessary.

'Greater clarity about this area of the law will benefit parents and

schools alike. The law will allow previously paper-driven

communications from school trips and parents' evenings to school

admissions and discipline to be made via email. Most communications -

from supermarket shopping to banking - can now be carried out

reliably and securely online and there is no reason why we cannot

extend this to school-parent communications.

'Many people want to use email because it is faster and more

convenient than its hard copy equivalents and changes to the

education law will make this a reality. Once implemented the changes

will make a real difference to way parents, schools and local

education authorities can communicate with each other. By building in

safeguards for parents, the proposals will contribute to our

objective of reforming public services around the user.

'This will build on the government's very substantial investment in

new technology in schools - nearly 100% of schools are now connected

to the internet. Substantial progress on domestic connections has

also been made. Latest figures indicate that nearly 40% of households

are now connected.

'We want to build consensus on the way forward which is why we are

seeking the views of those within and beyond the education service

from local authority chief education officers to bodies representing

parents, school governors and managers, and teachers.'


This press notice relates to England

1. The consultation is about clarifying the legal position on

electronic communications in education (mainly in the schools

sector). The consultation seeks views specifically on a draft order

under section 8 of the Electronic Communications Act 2000 amending

section 572 of the Education Act 1996 - an Act consolidating previous

provisions as far back as 1944.

2. Section 572 provides that an order, notice or document required

under the Act may be served by delivering it to a person, or by

leaving it at his usual or last known place of residence, or by

sending it in a prepaid letter addressed to him at that place.

Because section 572 applies to several other Education Acts, it has a

wide effect in education law.

3. The order will thus clarify the circumstances under which

electronic communications can be used in some 50 statutory processes,

including those described above. The order will protect the interests

of parents (some of whom may not have ready access to, or want,

electronic communications) by providing for their prior consent to

being communicated with in this way.

4. Subject to this consultation, the changes will be made by an order

laid before parliament which would come into force in 2003.

5. The consultation is available, with an online questionnaire, here . Alternatively paper copies

may requested from or 020 7273 5330.

The consultation closes on 31 July 2002.

6. The consultation forms part of the delivery of the department's

e-Business Strategy which can be seen here .

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