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Act swiftly to tackle school trespassers Comment by TONY PIDGEON from education law specialists Stone King

Trespassers can cause major damage to school property and the clean-up costs can often run into tens of thousands of pounds. It’s therefore vital that schools take swift action to recover possession.

But removing trespassers can take considerable time due to the congested nature of court lists and the need to comply with onerous procedural requirements. Failure to meet these requirements may mean having to issue fresh court proceedings, increasing both time and costs as a result.

In order to speed up the process of dealing with trespassers, guidance was recently issued by the High Court, confirming that certain possession claims could be issued within its jurisdiction.

The High Court will allow such claims to be issued where there is a real urgency and a “substantial risk of public disturbance or of serious harm to persons or property which properly require immediate determination.” If you are unable to satisfy these tests, proceedings would need to be issued in the

County Court nearest the site. This will inevitably lead to delay.

From a practical point of view therefore, if there’s to be any chance of issuing proceedings in the High Court, it’s vital that you take action as soon as evidence of trespass is uncovered. It would be very difficult to argue before the court that there is a real urgency if the trespassers have already been on school land for a number of weeks.

We have recently seen an increase in cases involving large-scale trespass on school grounds, often in situations where the occupied land - usually a playing field - is separate from the main school site.

One school we advise found its playing fields besieged by trespassers. In total there were up to 50 vehicles on the site and the intruders were engaged in fly tipping on an extremely large scale.

The trespassers refused to vacate the site so the school acted swiftly. We were instructed on the Thursday evening and by Monday morning, we were successfully arguing before the High Court

that there was a real urgency and a substantial disturbance as a result of the occupation. We were then able to obtain a possession order in the school’s favour within a few days of being instructed.

Once a possession order has been granted by the court, the next step is to enforce that order. This can also lead to delays - especially if a police presence is also required at the point of enforcement. Once the site has been cleared, it then needs to be secured immediately. That’s why it’s prudent to work with enforcement agents who specialise in these types of removals and who can deal with such matters as quickly as possible.

Trespassing is a serious issue for schools, not only from a safeguarding viewpoint, but also financially. It’s almost impossible to recover the costs of legal proceedings from the trespassers, not to mention the clean-up costs of the site itself. As such, it’s vital that schools take steps to proactively secure any sites that are not in constant use and act quickly to recover possession if necessary.

You’re fake news, you are! Comment by MARK BENTLEY, London Grid for Learning

I went to Buckingham Palace to receive my knighthood yesterday… Well, the Queen has no recollection of it, but I use ‘alternative facts’, so I am now officially Sir Mark! This childish approach seems to have become thae new standard for grownups, so how can we help young people decide who and what to trust online?

Critical? Thinking!

Once upon a time, there was the truth and there were facts. Nowadays however, it seems such things aren’t quite so important. Confused? You aren’t the only one. With many adults struggling to find reliable, unbiased information online, how do you imagine your pupils feel? Is there any point trying to teach critical thinking when it is more fashionable to be critical about thinking than while thinking? Unsurprisingly, I am going to argue that there is…but that doesn’t make it easy.

What’s the point?

Whilst it is tempting to throw our hands in the air and say “I give up”, the curse and the beauty of teaching is that we can’t ignore the big topics that polarise society like refugees, immigration, left versus right politics, gender issues and of course fake news.

Blurred lines

It is fashionable to name our era ‘post-truth’, but of course there is no such thing. However, just recognising the problem of fake news doesn’t change much – so what can we do? In fact, the lessons we need to teach our young people aren’t all that different to the ones we use to protect them against grooming, radicalisation or child sexual exploitation. We need to help them to spot blurred lines between facts and opinions. This is of course no small task, but help is at hand. As part of our


commitment at LGfL to keeping children safe online and to helping schools achieve this end, we have added a ‘fake news & hoaxes’ section to our online resources portal where we collated a selection of tools to help schools in this area:

Trust Me!

One of the resources at the top of the list in the fake news section is Trust Me, a tool we developed with Childnet International for developing critical thinking skills for the online world. The age-appropriate packs cover Content and Contact for Primaries, and Content, Contact and Propaganda for Secondaries. The whole point of the practical resource is to provoke discussion among pupils and challenge them to think critically about what they see on websites and social media.

The red car and the blue car

It is of course important that we help pupils to make up their own minds and do not push them down a particular route. The Wall Street Journal has created a particularly useful tool for this (also to be found at Pick a topic (Trump, Obama, Guns, Immigration, etc) and see the latest tweets on the subject by fierce Republican and Democrat supporters. This juxtaposition provides a great illustration for older learners of how people can passionately hold drastically diverging views but claim that the facts are on their side.

Look – it’s a tree octopus

And it’s never too early to start teaching these skills – for younger learners, try exploring the Dog Island or Tree Octopus conservation website. Or maybe try them on your colleagues first. But careful; they don’t exist: it’s fake news!

March 2017

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