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A parent has refused to agree to our keeping her son in detention. Do we have the right to do it anyway?

You would be unwise. Although the courts have supported the right of schools to use detention as a disciplinary sanction, the inference to be drawn from their decisions is that this presupposes parents' consent. To detain someone against their will, except as a consequence of judicial process, is unlawful imprisonment . In the case of minors, consent is exercised by their parents.

In DFE Circular 8:94, the issue was addressed somewhat obliquely: "Where any detention imposed is a reasonable response to a disciplinary incident (and where the parents have not expressly withdrawn their permission), the courts have upheld teachers' right to use detention as a punishment. The implication of this is clear enough.

In practice, schools follow a long-accepted code of practice in ensuring that parents are notified in advance of a detention and are invited to sign a return slip indicating that they are aware of, and thus, presumably, consent to the detention taking place. Where parents raise difficulties over transport or appointments, schools are usually willing to agree to the punishment being moved to another time, because the pupil is being punished, not the parents.

Most schools set out their disciplinary policy in their prospectus, so that detention will not come as a surprise. If parents object, however, it has to be made clear that there is a limited range of sanctions available to schools and that if detention is not acceptable exclusion may be the only alternative.

We have just dismissed a teacher for offences which, in our view, make him a menace to children. What should we do to ensure that he is not employed in a school again?

This is not a decision for you to take, however strongly you may feel. The governing body or the LEA has a duty to report the facts to the Department for Education and Employment, which will review the case and will allow the teacher concerned to make representations if he wishes.

If the department reaches the same conclusion as you, the teacher's name will be included in List 99. This specifies either that the person should not be employed in contact with young people at all, or places limits, for example of gender, within which employment may be considered. The names of all newly appointed teachers are checked against List 99, a copy of which is held by LEAs.

Where a head or deputy takes over the duties of a teacher who is absent for a lengthy period, can this be recognised in salary terms?

Any salary payments to teachers must be in accordance with the terms of the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions of Service Document. It is not possible, for example, to pay a head or deputy a responsibility point normally held by a teacher.If the governors want to reward a head or deputy for a temporary increase in responsibility, they would need to pay the person at the point above their current position on the spine for heads and deputies for that fraction of a full year which most closely corresponds in salary terms with the amount the governors wished to pay.

Questions should be sent to Helpline, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Fax: 0171-782 3200.

e-mail: letters@tes1.demon.co.uk

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