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Helpline;Briefing;School Management

One of our teachers appears to have established a close personal relationship with a member of our office staff, although they are both married. There is inevitable gossip within the school. What can I, as head, do?

People's private lives are their own concern, whether we approve of their conduct or not, but when personal relationships spill over into their working lives, an employer or line manager is entitled to take notice.

You need to be sure, of course, that these two people are allowing whatever feelings they have for each other to affect their behaviour at work. If so, it would probably be wisest to have a private word with each of them separately, confining your remarks to what you know to be true, namely that, while their relationship is no concern of yours, there is a feeling in the school that their work is being affected. You should advise them to take care to ensure that their behaviour in school remains strictly professional.

We have a full-time teacher who wishes to reduce her commitment to 0.8 of full-time. We are happy to agree to this. She carries an additional responsibility point and, arguing that she will continue to carry out that responsibility in full, she is asking to be paid the full value of that point. Can this be done?

This cannot be done in the terms in which you state it. When a teacher works part-time, the salary calculation is a percentage of the full-time salary at the appropriate point on the scale, which includes points for experience as well as for responsibility.

Given that this is a reasonable point, however, you might address the problem from the other end, namely by writing the appropriate job description for the 0.8 of full-time for which she will be paid. In other words, if the responsibility is indeed exactly the same as it would have been for full-time, you might adjust the other commitments of the post, for example the teaching load, to take this into account. Alternatively, you might increase the salary calculation to, say, 0.85, while leaving the teaching load unchanged.

The Sion Jenkins murder case highlighted the need to check the information given on application forms when filling posts. What is the correct procedure?

It is the duty of any job applicant to ensure that all the information provided is true, complete and accurate. Deliberate fabrication or the omission of essential information is serious and should invalidate an application or lead to dismissal.

Employers should make whatever checks they think fit. Certainly, as happened in the Jenkins case, the employer should conduct a police check and establish that the person is qualified to teach.

With regard to qualifications and other information, it would be impossible to check every detail and one relies heavily on referees to provide evidence of a candidate's experience and suitability for the post. One must remember that experience and performance are likely to be much more important than initial qualifications for teachers well-established in their careers.

Qualifications may be checked either by asking to see the original certificates, (though forgery is always a possibility), or by writing to the institution which issued them.

Fortunately, instances of serious misrepresentation are very rare and one should not succumb to the temptation to over-react to an isolated and well publicised case.

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