Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Advice from the hotline...

The ASCL hotline is a completely confidential service available to answer members' questions on issues that arise in school/college. The questions and answers below are based on real calls to the hotline. To protect confidentiality, all scenarios have been anonymised. If you need advice on a personal or professional issue, call 0116 299 1122 and ask for the hotline officer.

'Shoe-in' idea receives boot

Q Our long-serving deputy head is retiring in August and he will of course need replacing. We have two other deputy heads in this large school, one of whom is a natural shoe in for this post and to be honest I have already intimated to her that the post is hers for the asking. The other deputy head has however told me that I cannot offer the job without going through a formal procedure of advertising the post nationally. Surely this is not right?

A All head and deputy posts with a very few minor exceptions must be advertised nationally, which means normally that they should appear somewhere, either in a publication or on a jobs website, such as eteach, with national coverage. The exceptions to these strict regulations are in some arcane instances where incumbencies have new employers or schools change structures but not staff. You would be most unwise to simply appoint the shoe-in candidate; you would be in breach of the regulations and could throw yourself open to accusations of subverting normal practice.

Concerns over contractual errors

Q I have just appointed someone to the leadership team on L11. The local authority when sending out the contract put the salary at 59K instead of 51K and included a TLR. Clearly this was incorrect as one cannot have a TLR when on the leadership team. The member of staff, however, signed the contract and is saying that he is entitled to the higher sum as it was in the contract. I said that this is obviously a matter for the LA as it was their mistake and, if the member of staff is challenging it, he needs to contact his union. I would like to know what the legal position might be in relation to the contract.

A The general principle in contract law is that you are not entitled to benefit from another party's innocent mistake - particularly if it was clear and obvious. If therefore all the pre-contract documents refer to 51k, coupled with the fact that it is not possible to make a TLR payment to someone on the Leadership Team, the employee's position is weak. As you rightly state, the local authority needs to handle this directly with the member of staff.

Nip 'thorny' governor in the bud

Q One of our new parent governors was appointed, in my view, not because she has the greater interests of the community at heart, but because she is a troublemaker who has persuaded her cronies that she will take the school in hand and make it pliable to their wishes. She is confrontational in meetings and has been making comments about me as headteacher and the senior management team. These comments are probably not defamatory but they are certainly not flattering.

A Our advice is to ask your chair of governors to take this new governor to task. It must be very clearly spelt out to her that once she is elected to the governing body she shares the communal requirements for not only confidentially but also loyalty. If she will not apologise or go through formal channels then the governors as a body should pass a motion of censure. As you probably know, it is difficult to end a parent governor's term in office prematurely, so this must be nipped in the bud, and quickly.

Spell it out

Q A member of staff seems to have a major problem with spelling and grammar. I cannot let his reports go out in the state they are. Can I make him do them again? He is claiming that it breaks the workload agreement.

A An employer is entitled to refuse work that is partially or imperfectly completed. He has not completed his reports until they are done to an appropriate, reasonable standard. A report full of spelling and punctuation mistakes is below the level of reasonable expectation from a professional member of staff.

Losing my religion

Q Arranging a joint timetable with other schools has created problems staffing the last few periods of religious education (RE). Can I direct someone with RE on their original qualification to teach them?

A No. No teacher can be directed to teach RE if they object to doing so unless they have been employed specifically for that purpose.

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