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Q Is it permissible for a sixth-form group to go on a school trip without supervision?

A The level of supervision is determined by the head a decision which he or she may have to defend in the event of something going seriously wrong.

In most circumstances, one would expect some supervision, even at sixth-form level, although there may well be local activities where students may be trusted to take care of themselves. There are also particular events, such as expeditions under the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme, where close supervision would frustrate the nature of the exercise. The important point is that everyone concerned, including parents, should be fully aware of the arrangements and of provisions for any emergencies.

Q Our sixth form was taken away five years ago in a local reorganisation. The school is now grant-maintained and we want to reinstate it. What should we do?

A The introduction of a sixth form where none currently exists is, in legal terms, a change in the nature of the school which can only be brought about after due process, culminating in the approval of the Secretary of State.

Before she sanctioned such a change, the Secretary of State would need to be satisfied that the change was desirable and necessary, having regard to the existing provision of 16 to 19 education in the area, the demand for places and the opinion of the local authority.

In other words, you cannot just do it: you will need to put together a convincing case which enjoys broad support in the community.

Q A teacher appointed on a five-year contract to run a TVEI project is coming to the end of his term. His performance is less than brilliant and we want to get rid of him and advertise in the hope of appointing someone better. The teacher's union is threatening to take us to an industrial tribunal. Should we do it anyway?

A That depends on whether you want to be taken to the industrial tribunal, with every prospect of losing, or not. In spite of the fixed term, this teacher, by virtue of continuous service over two years, has employment protection and could only be dismissed on the grounds of redundancy or unsatisfactory performance.

He cannot be declared redundant because you intend to fill the post anyway, and, to justify dismissal for poor performance, you would need to be able to demonstrate that appropriate warnings had been given, with opportunities for improvement, coupled with relevant support.

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