Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Q&A

The place of deputy heads

Two cautionary notes when restructuring to a 'flat' leadership team, especially when it is decided to have no deputy head. Abolishing the post of deputy creates a redundancy situation and a fair process must be followed.

Also, take careful note of the terms and conditions of deputy and assistant heads. Only a deputy can deputise for a head.

This may not be an issue except in the case of a head's illness or in the event of exclusion. Only the head can exclude, or a deputy deputising for the head. An assistant head cannot.

SHA recommends that any structure should have at least one deputy head.

Educational negligence

Another claimant has won a case for educational negligence. In this case an educational psychologist recommended that a child with serious learning disabilities should be sent to a mainstream school rather than to one with a special unit.

The heads of the schools and all the psychologists who eventually became involved were sued for damages arising from educational failure and loss of life chances. The judge was highly critical of the expense of the case but found for the claimant in respect of the first psychologist. The heads were not found liable.

Despite the judge's comments, these cases are winnable and there will be people who will take them on. Heads of inclusive schools should ensure that pupils with learning disabilities are very closely monitored and that professional advice is followed at every stage.

This should also be recorded and kept for a reasonable period so that a strong defence can be mounted in case of claims.

Stressed out?

The courts continue to resist the pressure to open the floodgates on stress cases and a clutch of recent cases has reinforced the defences.

It has been made clear that stress cases will be decided on the same basis as any other claim for damages. The injury must be foreseeable. An employer is entitled to assume that an employee who attends work is fit for work unless clearly warned to the contrary.

Grumbles about being 'stressed out' are not enough to prove that an employer knew or ought to have known that someone was not fit.

However there must be a duty of care. This means that the employer must prevent excessive stress at work. An employer is not responsible for stresses that arise from someone's personal life.

Child abuse

In situations where child abuse or inappropriate sexual contact is alleged, there was until fairly recently a tendency to suspend automatically and to dismiss even if the police investigation did not lead to prosecution or conviction.

It is important that heads take advice on this before acting and also take advice on the exact wording of any letter of suspension.

A number of recent cases have led to claims that employers' actions have been an unjustified breach of trust and confidence and have resulted in a decision that the employee has been unfairly dismissed. There should be no knee-jerk reaction.

This does not mean that a school should not suspend or dismiss if circumstances warrant it but that it would be prudent to get advice in writing and to use a model letter supplied by your personnel adviser.

Stick to the subject

A recent case from a FE context appears to show that if a teacher has been employed to teach a specific subject she or he cannot be redeployed to teach another unless the contract of employment specifically says so.

This could have significant implications for schools as well and it would be a good idea to look at what contracts say. It is also important to remember that contracts cannot be varied unilaterally.

© 2017 Association of School and College Leaders