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Our school is oversubscribed and a number of parents are likely to appeal against the local education authority's refusal of a place. Inevitably, parents come to me, as the headteacher, to seek explanations and help. How should I respond?

AS an employee of the local authority, your first duty is one of loyalty to them. You should not do or say anything that might be interpreted as undermining their undoubted right to manage the admissions process.

Their decisions should be made in accordance with published, objective criteria. You should be aware of what those criteria are so that you can explain individual decisions to parents. Parents may wish to challenge the size of the intake, on the grounds that the school has the space and facilities to accept more than the planned number, laid down by the LEA. If the school is, by any reasonable assessment, completely full, this argument will not stand much chance, a fact that you may need to explain.

The last resort is the "special case" plea, namely that, even though the criteria were correctly applied, and the school is really full, there is good reason to treat a particular pupil as an exception. All you can reasonably do here is to explain to parents what the procedure is, while not giving them any indication that they might receive special treatment.

Two of my experienced teachers are strongly opposed to pupils taking national tests in their current form and are threatening to refuse to administer the tests and to encourage parents to withdraw their children from them. What should be my response, as head?

The administration of SAT tests is based upon statutory authority, which lays a legal burden upon schools to administer them. Refusal to comply by individual teachers could lead to disciplinary action.

Encouraging parents to withdraw their children would, in effect, be an incitement to break the law, as well as an action contrary to school policy, and could, therefore, also be construed as misconduct.

Parents themselves do not have the right to choose - with the exception of RE - the curriculum that pupils follow or which tests are administered in school.

The tests are imposed by law. The objective of dissenters must be to change the law, preferably by democratic means through political processes. In the case of teachers, this usually means campaigning through their union.

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