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.

A leave of absence for support role?

Q My husband has had a serious operation which will require support at home for an indefinite period. I have asked for leave of absence to look after him but suspect the college does not want to grant it. Can they turn my request down?

A Employment law says that you, as an employee, have the right to take leave for emergencies to look after a dependent but it is your responsibility to make arrangements to cover if the situation is long term. Misuse of the 'emergency' provision can lead to disciplinary action.

However, since your husband's condition sounds very much as if it may be permanent, it will qualify as a disability and it will be important that your employer treats you strictly according to the same rules it applies to all other employees with caring responsibilities, otherwise it may be open to action for discrimination on the grounds of disability.

Compensation entitlement

Q I am a male deputy head of a girls' school which has a public footpath running across the school grounds. For years we have had problems with youngsters not at the school using this footpath and being threatening and aggressive towards staff and students. In the last 18 months, this escalated to the point where I was twice assaulted when forced to intervene. The second assault, which happened a few months ago, was severe and as a result I have suffered acute post-traumatic stress disorder and it is unlikely that I will be able to return to teaching. Am I entitled to compensation?

A You will almost certainly be able to claim from the government scheme set up to compensate victims of criminal injuries - the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). It is a requirement of the scheme that the incident is reported to the police as soon as reasonably practicable.

The claim must also normally be presented within two years of the date of the incident. You make a claim by completing a standard form giving details of the incident, the nature of the injury and the treatment received.

ASCL's legal department is available to help in completion and submission of the form to the CICA. Your first step is to phone the hotline officer on 0116 299 1122, who will put you in contact, initially, with an ASCL field officer.

Mediation required after parental tirade

Q The parents of one child are 'getting after' one of the younger and less experienced teachers and bombarding her with emails sent through the school site, phone calls and letters. Should I intervene or would that be seen as stepping on her toes?

A You should definitely intervene. You have a duty of care to staff and that includes ensuring that they are not harassed. You will most likely have in your possession data that may confirm their suspicions (in which case you will already have started capability procedures) or negate their case. You should have the parents make an appointment to see you, explain to them that this conduct is unreasonable and direct them to the school's formal complaints procedure if they wish to pursue it further.

Questionnaire raises question

Q One of our union representatives is sending out a questionnaire to staff to ask how satisfied they are with the management of the school. Can I stop him?

A You cannot. You could deny facilities such as duplication if there is no agreement covering it, but a union is entitled to communicate with its members. It would be better to discuss the content of the questionnaire to see whether some of the problems could be sorted out without that kind of formal process.

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