Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders


Follow protocols for double trouble

Q I am an assistant head in a foundation school. For some time now I have been aware of two members of staff who I believe are deliberately trying to make trouble for me. I think they simply do not like me and see it as their role to make my life difficult, by telling tales to other staff and to the head, and by contradicting me in front of staff and by trying to subvert decisions I have made. I have reason to believe they have 'had a word' with the head in the past, but I believe she trusts my judgement and I am not worried about her coming down on their side. However, last week, the two staff members referred their latest complaint directly to the governors for an agenda item on a termly governing body meeting without first informing the head. Surely they cannot do this?

A There are procedures and protocols in place which are there for a purpose. In this instance, the protocol should be that the members of staff take matters like this directly to the headteacher. Your first conversation should be with the head. If necessary, the chair of the governing body should be advised to reply to the staff suggesting merely that they should first explore these issues with the headteacher. No further comment should be offered. When the headteacher receives an overture from these two members of staff then he or she may mention expected procedures to be followed in future.

Arresting developments can lead to exclusion

Q I am a new deputy head and I am not sure what the procedure should be on trying to keep a pupil away from others whilst the police are looking at a crime he is said to have committed. The boy is in year 12 and is said to have sexually assaulted a year 10 girl who attends another school. He is a very intimidating sort of personality and I fear that he may well try to persuade other students to lie on his behalf.

A If you are satisfied that, on the balance of probabilities, a pupil has committed an offence, you may take formal action to exclude.

Informal or unofficial exclusions are illegal, regardless whether they have the agreement of parents or carers. However, the DfES guidance Exclusion from Schools and Pupil Referral Units, published October 2004, advises that there are exceptional circumstances when there is a need to remove pupils from the school site but you do not yet have sufficient evidence to warrant exclusion, for example where a pupil is accused of committing a serious criminal offence such as yours and, in particular, where such an offence took place outside your jurisdiction, for example during the weekend or off site.

If you want to keep that pupil away from others pending a police investigation, the head can exceptionally authorise a leave of absence for a fixed period with the parents' agreement or, exercising powers delegated by the governors under Section 29 (3) of the Education Act 2002, you can arrange for a pupil to be educated elsewhere without parental consent if necessary.

Exclusions can be a complicated issue. The recent Steer committee report on behaviour includes a recommendation that the DfES guidance on exclusions be strengthened to give a clearer statement of the law and the legal implications of unofficial exclusions.

Below par declaration suspicious

Q We have a member of the PE department who has been on long-term illness absence, in this case for seven months. The medical certificates, which we received correctly, all indicate he is unable to perform any duties at all, let alone in school. I have, however, had reports from various people around the community that he is seen frequently on the golf course and at various social occasions where he gives the impression of being totally fit and active. I am beginning to suspect that he is swinging the lead. How can I prove he is?

A You should arrange for this member of staff to be examined by a school appointed doctor or the county medical health officer. That examination will tell you whether the man's GP is providing proper certification or not. If he is cleared to return to work then that is what he should do. If, however, the medical health officer or school doctor says that he is not fit to work, there is not much more you can do at this point other than accept what you are told.

However, in the long term, if your governors determine that this man is frustrating his contract by inability to work and it looks as if this will continue, they would be perfectly within their rights to initiate procedures to terminate his contract. Great care would need to be taken if this is done since proper procedures are essential.

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