Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Q&A

Let's do lunch

Q The headteacher wants me, as the one who does the timetable, to plot next year's programme so that I give all the year heads an hour off before school lunch time and then require them to do an hour of lunch time supervision from noon to 1pm. I discussed this with a couple of the year heads and their immediate reaction was "No way". How can I diplomatically convince the head that this is not in the school's (or my) best interest?

A You do not need to do any convincing, you only need a copy of the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions (otherwise known as the 'blue book' and available from Teachernet). Paragraph 75.6 says "...a teacher shall not be required under his contract as a teacher to undertake midday supervision..." The school will need to make other arrangements, preferably the employment of dinner ladies or teaching assistants who may undertake such a task.

At a disadvantage

Q One of our pupils with a physical disability has physically attacked and kicked one of the support staff seriously enough to warrant permanent exclusion, had he not had a disability. This is not the first instance of violence with this student and I am coming to my wits end. What can I do with him?

A Having a disability does not mean that the pupil can do what he likes. Provided the school has responded to the disability robustly and put all the necessary support and accommodation in place, you can respond as you would with any other student. His offences are grounds for permanent exclusion and you need not consider his disabilities as preventing you from doing this. Be aware, however, that if you are challenged, you will most likely need to be able to prove that you have done all you can to support him with his disability.

Error of judgement

Q I am a new head in my first post and have run into a problem over what I consider to be unprofessional behaviour in a colleague. I took a decision to stop an event organised by this member of staff as I was not satisfied with the arrangements she had made both from the health and safety point of view and quality of the information that was sent to pupils and parents.

I understand that the member of staff then spoke to the students who would have been involved and encouraged them to write letters of complaint to me. I only know of this because I received letters this morning from three of the pupils involved. They were quite vitriolic and have upset me somewhat I must admit. On what grounds can I discipline the staff member and the students?

A The first piece of advice is not to get too upset about the letters from the students - although easier said than done - since they were encouraged by the member of staff. Better to let them be water under the bridge. Of course you will want to have a word with them, in a calm and controlled manner, to tell them that such behaviour is unacceptable in the future.

However, as far as the member of staff is concerned, she has committed an error of professional judgement and, in our view, has breached the professional etiquette expected of teachers. You could reasonably discipline her and, depending on her previous history, you could either make that formal or informal. Certainly, she needs to be advised that such behaviour is unacceptable to you and to the school in general.

Enough is enough

Q I am a deputy head with responsibility for managing staff attendance. One of my colleagues is, I believe, trying to play the system by asking for compassionate leave for the most obscure reasons. Last term he demanded a day off for a cousin's funeral and now he is asking for two days so that he can attend a family wedding in Guernsey. Are there any guidelines I can refer to?

A Compassionate leave is usually negotiated at local levels and is based upon the norms acceptable to society at large. Generally it would be unusual to grant compassionate leave for a family wedding, and you are justified in turning down this request. Leave for a cousin's funeral is more acceptable, however there would need to be a decision on whether it should be paid or unpaid.

Your task would be much more straight forward if the school had a clear compassionate leave policy outlining what is acceptable and what is not. This would spell out what the leave may be taken for - this usually means close family matters which are urgent - and the number of days which are acceptable for paid or unpaid leave.

Re-allocated time

Q Can I use the additional time staff have when they are released from teaching year 11 and year 13 to cover the classes of a teacher who is leaving but who stayed on to teach his examination classes? There is only a small number of lower lessons to cover and it would not be a big burden on any teacher were I to re-allocated these across the department.

A You can do this but it will be considered 'gained time' as defined by the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions guidance document and so it counts towards the 38 hour cover limit. As long as you are within the limit, you are within your rights to ask staff to take the classes.

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