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Helpline;Briefing;School Management

Q I have unexpectedly been appointed as a head of department. Where are my duties set out and where do I look for training?

A Congratulations. I am astonished that you have not been provided with a job description and you should certainly ask your head to provide one at once. Many schools have a generic description, covering all departmental heads, with additions reflecting the duties of particular posts. For example, if you are head of science, you may have duties relating to safety in laboratories, supervision of technicians and so on.

You should discuss your training needs with your head or with whoever is responsible for professional development in your school. Courses for heads of department, both general and subject specific, are run by a variety of organisations, including local authorities, teacher unions and university education departments. You might also consider joining the relevant subject teaching association, if you have not already done so. If you are in a local authority school, there may be a subject adviser or inspector who could advise you.

Q A boy in one of my classes is constantly harassed by his peers who regard him as gay. It is mostly innuendo rather than overt abuse. Should I intervene? If so, how? One colleague who tried is now subject to abuse himself.

A Let's not dress this up. This is bullying of the nastiest kind and has to be stopped. This boy is entitled to be protected against the torments which he is undoubtedly suffering as a result of this disgraceful behaviour. Your school should have an anti-bullying policy to which you should turn for guidance, but this is really a matter for senior members of staff to deal with. You should report it at once. I would hope that all those who teach this boy are advised to report any further bullying and that those responsible are made to understand that their conduct is intolerable. If your school does not have an anti-bullying policy, it is high time it did.

Archimedes * Management Guide for Heads and Senior Staff, by Archimedes, published by TheTESButterworth Heinemann, is available from the Times Bookshop at pound;12.99, tel 0990 134459.

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