Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Advice from the hotline...

The ASCL hotline is a completely confidential service available to answer members' questions on issues that arise in school/college. The questions and answers below are based on real calls to the hotline. 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.

A final written warning

Q: I am a fairly new head in a voluntary-aided school and am dealing with my first major personnel issue. There is a teacher on a final written warning, whom I have now had to suspend for what I believe will become gross misconduct once I have had the investigation completed. The teacher has been through the disciplinary process. The matter is complicated because some of the teacher's colleagues disagree with my decision and are talking about getting a petition together on his behalf to present to me. How do I handle this without making it worse?

A: This is a tricky one to deal with. The most important thing is for you to show absolutely no partiality or indication of your opinions at this stage. Any statements from you to the staff must be very carefully worded and you must try to ensure that levels of confidentiality are sufficient to dampen whatever speculation has made this teacher's colleagues feel as they do.

Absolute discretion by all the leadership team will be needed in order to ensure that no cabals form in the staffroom. Above all, the best thing that can happen - for the leadership team, the teacher and the school - is for the case to reach a conclusion, whichever way, as expeditiously as possible.

Redundancy: A deal or no deal?

Q: I am a deputy head in my mid-fifties. At the beginning of term, the governing body informed the staff that there would be a couple of redundancies within the SMT, which is too large to sustain due to our falling school rolls and, as a consequence, our budget.

I volunteered for one of the redundancies and the governing body accepted my application. Now the local authority seems to be playing games in that the meetings which they should hold to approve the finance for the redundancy have been delayed and postponed. They are now saying that a decision won't be made for at least another six weeks. My head is supporting my decision to leave, so I don't quite know what to do next.

A: This is obviously a very unsatisfactory state of affairs. The fact that the governors agreed the new structure and the redundancies should be sufficient to get the process started. You could encourage the headteacher to get the chair of governors to tackle the LA head on in its seeming reluctance to move forward. In the meantime, it would be appropriate for an ASCL field officer to support you in this matter.

Don't stand so close to me

Q: I am a male, relatively young, assistant head in my second year at the school. A couple of months ago, a year 10 girl developed an obvious crush on me and I made it quite clear that this was inappropriate. Since the girl had an SEN statement, I discussed the situation with the SENCO and asked her to keep an eye on it.

Meanwhile, unfortunately the girl found out my mobile phone number and I have had over 100 text messages and emails in the last few weeks. I have kept the headteacher and the girl's SENCO aware and I can assure you that I have done nothing to encourage this situation. I am also changing my mobile telephone number and my private email address. What else can I do?

A: We suggest you need to keep a log, if you are not already doing so, of every incident that occurs and that you need to share this with the head so she is aware of exactly what is going on. It is imperative that your conduct is far beyond reproach and that you can document this.

If you have not already made the girl's parents aware of the situation, quite clearly you must see them to discuss your concerns and the ways in which they can assist you to stop the girl's current behaviour. You may wish the head to be at this meeting and to document what happens. You will need to make it very clear to the parents how important it is that they assist you in this. With any luck the girl will cease to make you the focus of her attention once her parents are involved and she realises that you will not respond.

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