I HAVE heard that prospective headteachers will need a new qualification from September this year. Is this true?

NO, this is not true. The Department for Education and Skills originally hoped that the National Professional Qualification for Headship would become mandatory by this date, but this, as was widely predicted when it was introduced, has not been practicable. The department is currently consulting about a possible date in 2004, but no decision has yet been taken.

Having said that, most aspiring heads have been taking the NPQH as a matter of course, to reinforce their case for appointment.

A SCHOOL party going to Spain will spend some time at the seaside. Should we permit them to swim in the sea?

AS the head, you are the only person who can answer this. All I can do is indicate the factors that should be taken into account.

The DFES guidelines must be the first point of reference - ensure that their advice is taken. As with all school activities, there should be a risk assessment, covering all relevant factors, relating both to location and to pupils and staff.

If the place has been visited in advance and careful note taken of life-saving facilities and local conditions, this will obviously help. One also has to consider the level of discipline that can be expected from the pupils and the calibre of the leadership. If the head agrees in principle, the leader must be able and capable of making a final decision on the day, in the light of prevailing conditions.

There is no activity, including crossing the road, that is totally risk-free and it would be sad if recent tragic incidents were to deter schools from providing valuable and enjoyable activities. Those tragedies, shocking as they are, represent a very small proportion of the hundreds of thousands of young people who annually benefit from out-of-school experiences, willingly provided by dedicated teachers.

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