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We are an oversubscribed secondary school and have had several additional pupils admitted.

This creates pressure on class sizes, which we should like to resolve by placing 31 in the top sets, leaving the special educational needs group rather smaller. Are the unions right to object to this?

The struggle to reduce class sizes has been going on for many years and the unions were pleased to have general acceptance of the principle that 30 was the maximum in a secondary school.

While no one would be able to argue that there is a world of difference between 30 and 31 in a top set, the unions are likely to regard any slippage on this issue as the thin end of a wedge.

It is, however, widely recognised that it is far easier to teach a larger top set than a large class of children with special needs and most schools organise themselves on this basis.

Your only way forward is to have a full and open discussion with the union representatives in your school to see whether you can reach a consensus on the best way to tackle overcrowding.

Do teachers have a right to unlimited time off school to attend interviews for jobs elsewhere?

There is no right to time off with pay to attend interviews, but there is a long-established convention that this is always allowed. This is because all schools benefit from the arrangement.

However, because it is discretionary, employers are able to withhold permission if they feel that a teacher is deliberately and unnecessarily exploiting the system.

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