Q We have a falling school population and a deputy head is retiring. If we advertise nationally, as the law requires, and appoint from outside, we shall have to make another member of staff redundant. We have two well-qualified internal candidates. Is there anything we can do?

A You are quite right: the law requires a vacancy for the post of deputy head to be advertised nationally. There is no escape from this procedure. The law is silent, however, with regard to the criteria which the governors lay down for making the appointment, and it imposes no constraints upon them in drawing up their shortlist.

If, therefore, the governors decide that they wish to make an appointment which avoids redundancy, they can place their advertisement with as little ostentation as possible and then shortlist only the internal applicants.

Before deciding on such a course, however, they should reflect that the law in question was made to ensure that schools should, as far as possible, appoint the best available people to senior management, and that this may be a more important objective for the long-term well-being of a school than the avoidance of immediate difficulties.

Q In the light of your reply on religious holidays (Helpline, December 9), do teachers who are granted leave for such days have to make up their time out of term?

A You have confused two issues here. My previous comments were meant to apply to schools which close for a religious festival and not to individuals granted leave of absence. It is in the former case that the school must observe the requirement to be open to pupils for l9O days during the year.

In the latter case, when individuals are granted leave of absence, the situation is similar to leave on compassionate grounds or for moving house. The school remains open and so no demand is made for additional attendance by those who have been absent. Whether the absence is granted with or without pay depends upon circumstances. Most are with pay, under the terms of standing agreements between employer and employee, which are part of conditions of service.

Q I teach a severely handicapped pupil who is accompanied at all times by a non-teaching assistant. I have been told that this man has been criticising my classroom performance to other staff and to parents. What should I do?

A This is clearly unacceptable. This assistant is there solely to assist the pupil to whom he is assigned; any suggestions which he wishes to make relating to that pupil's learning in your class should be raised directly with you. Your methods and style with the rest of the class should be outside his concern, unless there is something so seriously wrong that any responsible adult would feel obliged to intervene.

Your first move should be to discuss it in private with the man himself. It may be that the real problem is that because you are busy with the needs of the rest of the class, you have not spent enough time, as he sees it, talking to him about how he might help the handicapped pupil.

If that does not work, your only recourse is to the head, who must explain to the assistant the nature of his role and what is and what is not acceptable in relation to that role.

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