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.

High time for exclusions?

Q We have discovered that a group of pupils has been habitually using drugs on the school site. Senior governors have got wind of this and are pressing us to exclude permanently. However, the DCSF guidance says we should only exclude permanently for repeated offences or supplying. Which do I follow?

A The guidance is only guidance. You have to have regard to it but if you believe there is good reason to take a harder line because of the circumstances of the school you are entitled to take that view.

You can also argue (if you can prove this) that repeated infractions have in fact taken place although they have only been discovered in one investigation.

However, if you do seriously consider permanent exclusion, the governors will have to be careful that they do not destroy the opportunity for a fair consideration of the case for the students and so negate the whole procedure.

Disproportioned attention on unwell student causes concern

Q We have a pupil with epilepsy, whose condition is unfortunately deteriorating to the extent that she now has serious episodes of unconsciousness which require staff intervention of one sort or another. I therefore have two concerns. Firstly is it fair to ask staff to intervene and provide medical attention to this girl, particularly those who show a disinclination to assist for the most part because of their own lack of knowledge and fear of doing something wrong? My other concern relates to the disproportioned attention which must be directed to this girl and therefore the distraction to other pupils getting on with their work.

A This is indeed an unfortunate situation and one where a discussion with the girl's parents could prove fruitful. It may well be the case that this girl is a potential pupil for a special school or some sort of education other than in school.

In response to your two particular concerns: no member of staff can be directed to offer medical assistance in cases such as this. Whilst we would expect all responsible adults to offer emergency first aid when required by anybody, it is a different matter to expect non-medically trained teachers to perform first aid in a situation such as this. If you have members of staff willing to volunteer then that is fine. Otherwise, if you have a school nurse then he or she should be your first port of call.

Your second problem of course is consequent upon the girl's condition and as mentioned earlier, discussion with the girl's parents may well be the first way forward.

Call for examination exemptions

Q So many of the staff at our school are examiners and markers for exam boards that there is serious disruption to the teaching programme this time of year. Can I refuse to allow people out of school for this purpose?

A The Burgundy Book (aka The Burgundy Book (aka Athe National Conditions of Service for School Teachers) encourages schools to allow staff to participate in examinations and marking but such participation must be reasonable. However, there is no absolute right of staff to be released. If the school is not benefiting sufficiently from the expertise and inside knowledge of examining practice which staff are bringing back, in comparison to the damage by disruption of lessons, then you are within your rights to say no.

You're hired!

Q The governors have recently delegated all staff appointments to me. A CRB check has thrown up an allegation made against a teacher at a previous school which was not substantiated. I immediately contacted the school which said that the accusation was an isolated one and that the accuser was not considered credible. Other than that I should be happy to appoint. Should I make the appointment or should I involve the governors?

A Responsibility for appointments rests with the school and if the governors have delegated the job to you, it is your decision. No one else can decide for you. As a head you have presumably completed the NCSL training on child protection as required and will have put into action the guidance from the training on how to explore the motivation of prospective staff at interview.

You say you would be happy to appoint and therefore you will have detected no reason for suspicion yourself. You have no evidence to suggest that the accusation was anything but false. Our recommendation would be to appoint but to keep an eye on the on the appointee initially.

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