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.

Sex discrimination case?

Q I am the head of an independent school. We have recently dismissed a member of staff for gross misconduct. The person's solicitor has now written submitting a grievance on her behalf alleging amongst other things that she has been discriminated against on the grounds of her sex.

The school's human resource advisers have informed us that since the grievance relates to disciplinary proceedings and she has already exercised her right of appeal she cannot now raise a grievance. Her solicitors are adamant that she can. Who is right?

A The solicitor is right. There generally is no right to raise a grievance in relation to disciplinary proceedings - unless the employee is alleging unlawful discrimination as is the case here. If you do not deal with her grievance and she succeeds in a claim before an employment tribunal, the award can be increased by up to 50 per cent.

However since she has already been dismissed you should be able to deal with the grievance under the modified statutory procedure which permits it to be in writing with no hearing and no appeal.

A little help from your friends

Q I am a head currently suspended from work pending a disciplinary hearing. The local authority has indicated that it wants its independent investigator to interview me prior to the disciplinary hearing. Do I have to agree to this and if so, do I have the right to be accompanied?

A There is no statutory requirement for you to attend an investigatory interview but most local authority disciplinary procedures do require it if necessary. You would be wise therefore to agree to it since it will be regarded as a reasonable management request. There is no statutory right to be accompanied since it is not strictly a disciplinary hearing but again most local authority procedures will expressly state that you are entitled to be accompanied.

An ASCL field officer is available to accompany you to the interview and assist you throughout the process.

Artistic interpretation

Q A parent is asking that his child is withdrawn from art lessons because his version of Islam prohibits the production of images of natural objects or people. Is he allowed to do this?

A In a maintained school the only subjects that a parent can withdraw a child from are religious education and sex-andrelationship lessons (not from biological sex education).

Therefore the school is within its legal right to insist that the child attends. The head of art may be able to find a sensible compromise if you wish to do so and take advantage of the decorative tradition of Islamic art. If the school was an independent school the parent would be bound by the contract with the school outlined in the school prospectus.

Show me the money...

Q A mother has asked for a detailed breakdown of all money spent on her child, who has special educational needs, under the Data Protection Act (DPA). She has also asked us to provide detailed information on other children with SEN. Do we have to provide this information?

A It would be a breach of the DPA to provide information on identifiable children other than her own. As far as her own child is concerned, you are required to provide information that is already held. However, you do not have to generate new information.

Therefore, it would be right to release information on the amount of money that the local authority has provided, but you do not have to attempt to identify information on how other school funds contribute to her care, unless that information is already held on school records. Of course you may want to work it out in order to discuss the parent's concerns in detail.

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