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Ask Tom

Teacher, TES Connect blogger and behaviour expert Tom Bennett puts on his agony uncle hat and answers your education questions

What are the rules regarding recruitment in the UK - does every job have to be offered externally? I have been filling a role to cover maternity leave for nearly a year and when the teacher decided not to return I assumed the job was mine. But I have been told that the school has to advertise.

A teacher in the North East of England

Not true since 2009. It used to be the case that schools had to advertise leadership positions - and good practice suggested that all other roles should be advertised, too - but no longer. Schools are now free to advertise or not, depending on their needs. There are still a number of other relevant employment laws connected with issues of gender, race and so on, and employers must be careful not to recruit unfairly on these grounds. That's why most schools advertise most posts externally: to reduce the chance of being accused of discriminating against any particular group. It is advisable to advertise in order to find the best possible candidate, but employers are free not to do so if they think they have found the perfect person, as long as they are not being partial.

There is talk in my school of bringing in mindfulness techniques after all the recent publicity. Have you got any compelling research with which to arm myself in a fight against it? The thought of having to lead meditation sessions fills me with dread.

A teacher via email to

There are several problems with implementing mindfulness in education. First, there is a distinct lack of research to prove that it has any significant effects in schools. A lot of studies highlight its impact on individuals in trials but very little field data shows that it has long-term effects on grades, punctuality or any other quantifiable factor. The research tends to show positive results in proxy success indicators designed by the researchers, such as the question: "Do you feel more relaxed after the relaxation programme you just took?" Second, it probably has many benefits for regular participants but very few when sessions are ad hoc and mandatory. It's a habit cultivated over a long time, not a shower. Third, mindfulness comes from Buddhist philosophy. Without putting it into context, it's just meditation. So there's your answer: nice idea, not much evidence to show it helps schoolchildren.

Our deputy headteacher likes to roam the corridors, popping into lessons unannounced and picking up random books to check work. It's really disruptive and off-putting and she often comes in when I am trying to settle the class down after break or lunch. Shouldn't she be scheduling these visits?

A teacher via email to

No. There is no rule to prevent a senior member of staff coming in to your lesson and looking at the students' work - in fact, that is regarded as an act of good governance. What they shouldn't be doing is performing this role in a disruptive way. It should be done quietly and sensitively. But this is a management issue, and I suggest you manage upwards and have the difficult discussion with your deputy headteacher.

Tom teaches full-time at Raine's Foundation School in London. Do you agree with his advice? To have your say or ask a question, visit www.tesconnect.comasktom or email

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