Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Members urged to read the fine print of new discipline powers

With the new powers to discipline in effect this term, school leaders in the maintained sector need to ensure that they and their colleagues are fully aware of the fine print in the regulations.

In particular, where the legislation states that powers may be exercised by staff 'authorised by the headteacher', then a staff member should be absolutely confident that the head has given him or her that authorisation before acting.

If it hasn't already been done, it is very important that heads issue clear, written guidance on which staff are authorised to do what. Similarly, where the law states that governors should issue guidance or rules, urgent action will be required if this has not already been done.

It is likely that the old common law powers (including 'in loco parentis') will be liable to challenge in court. (The powers of teachers in independent schools are different as they continue to be governed by contract, except the power to search for offensive weapons.)

ASCL is encouraging local branch secretaries, where appropriate, to ask the director of children's services what steps have been taken to bring these new restraint powers to the attention of all the authority's staff, within and outside education.

Equally, members will be interested to know what steps have been taken by the LA to discuss the restraint powers with the chief police officer and how far they have been publicised among the local police ranks.

While chief constables quite rightly have absolute discretion over operational powers, it would be deeply frustrating if the Government's intention to protect school staff from prosecution while maintaining discipline should be undermined by ignorance of the law by enforcement agencies.

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