Ask Tom

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

We have had a few students go on holiday in school time and the response from the leadership team has not been consistent. For some pupils, the fine has been waived, but for others it has been imposed. This seems very unfair to me but am I right in thinking there is not a lot I can do about it?

A teacher, via email to

It is at the headteacher's discretion to apply the process that leads to the fine. Given that this is out of your control, there is little you can do in practice. But what you can - and should - do is to ask for an explanation of the decision-making process, because it should be transparent. There may, after all, be mitigating circumstances that you don't know about.

I have been told that we have a load of tablet computers arriving in September and I can "use them as much as I like". That's the limit of the guidance. Shouldn't there be some CPD attached to this? I am not a technological idiot but I definitely need some pointers as to what exactly I should be doing with these tablets.

A teacher, via Twitter to @tes

I would definitely request CPD. But first ask yourself, "What would I like to do with these tablets? What exactly am I trying to achieve?" Otherwise you will end up using them for their own sake rather than to benefit learning. First, figure out the hole you are trying to fill, then ask for specific training. Or better still, find your own.

I am a middle leader but will be looking for an assistant headteacher role elsewhere next year as there isn't much scope for progress in my current school. I have a blood condition and am therefore prone to infection and illness. I had seven days of absence this year and a similar amount last year. It is a long-term condition for which there is no cure. When I was assessed by the school's occupational therapist she said that it should be treated as a disability. My headteacher notoriously gives poor references and I don't want this to hinder my chances of securing a role. How do you recommend I broach this with prospective employers?

A teacher, via email to

I wouldn't bring it up spontaneously but, obviously, if directly asked you should discuss it. That said, as it hasn't officially been designated as a disability, you don't have to declare it as one. Only mention it if the paperwork asks you to reveal any reasons for long-term absences. But yes, many poor employers would worry about this. Good ones will accept that your absences really aren't significant in the grand scheme of things.

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