I am head of my school, and I am being interviewed for the post of head of another school in a neighbouring authority. I don't want to resign until I have the new headship under my belt. What are the rules for resigning?
The 'burgundy book' (Conditions of Service for School Teachers in England and Wales) details resignation dates. For heads, the due dates are 30 September, 31 January and 30 April. For all other teachers, the dates are 31 October, 28 February and 31 May. These dates, and the expectation that moves should be made at the end of term, can be changed by agreement. We do recommend that you definitely have been offered and accepted the new headship before you make moves to resign or begin negotiating a leaving date. Resignations should be made formally in writing to your employer, usually either the LEA or the governing body.
I have received a letter from one of our teachers, who has been sick on and off for weeks. In her letter, she tells me her doctor has diagnosed stress-related illness caused by her job, and that she is to take several more weeks on sick leave. We are a smallish school and we simply cannot afford to let this happen. As the head, is there any way I can stop it?
There is a well-established procedure for dealing with sick leave, which has been agreed by the public sector employers and the unions, and which is enshrined in the 'burgundy book'.
It lays down how much teachers are to be paid after certain periods of illness, as well as detailing some of the administrative aspects. There is an obligation to see what can be done to mitigate stress in so far as it has been caused by situations in school (though not where it is caused by external factors). You should explore this.
If absence continues, you should explore fitness for work. In your case, our advice is to arrange for the teacher to be seen by an occupational health specialist, who will ask for specialist diagnosis if necessary.
If at a later stage it becomes evident that the teacher will not be able to return to work within a reasonable time, the governors may well decide to dismiss - but great care needs to be taken, and nothing should be done without consulting your personnel advice providers in the first place.
I have a young and charismatic male teacher who is attracting a following among our sixth form girls. There are rumours that he is showing a personal interest in one of them, but I have nothing concrete to go on. How should I handle it?
You should see him at once and warn him of the risk he could be taking. Even if there is no substance to the accusations, rumours can be almost as damaging as reality. He needs to know it and monitor his behaviour accordingly.
If there is more to it than idle gossip, you have reason to take it very seriously. Under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000, it is an offence for a person over 18 to have intercourse or other sexual activity with a person under 18, if he or she is in a position of trust to that person.
Things obviously may not have gone that far but clearly there is a possibility that he will not only be putting himself at risk of imprisonment but effectively destroying his career.
If the situation was that there was evidence that he had sex with a sixth form girl, then it would be sensible to contact the LEA and discuss action.
A decision may need to be made as to whether this is a case of an immature young man flattered by unaccustomed attention or a sexual predator.
Slander: don't pay the price
We have recently had an issue where one of our grounds staff was accused of verbally harassing a 16 year-old girl pupil. She told her parents about it, who came in and told me. My deputy made a thorough investigation and decided there was very little in it.
The issue died down at school relatively quickly. However, the parents also told the local newspaper, which printed a grossly exaggerated account with lurid details. I want to sue the paper for damages.
No matter how much you think you are justified, our strong advice is to do no such thing. The story is likely to be a one-day wonder, soon forgotten by everyone except those of you who were involved.
Libel, slander and defamation cases are incredibly expensive to mount, and court costs of over £150,000 are by no means uncommon.
They also serve to pull in other media, who will relish your discomfort and damage your standing. Very few such cases result in success, and most are remembered for the accusations, not the results.
The SHA hotline is a completely confidential service available to answer members' questions and assist with issues that arise in school. The questions and answers above are based on real calls to the hotline in the last month. 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.
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