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Helpline;School Management

Q: The staffing committee of the governors awarded pay rises to two members of staff on the head's recommendation. The finance committee then vetoed the awards because the school could not afford it. Have the teachers a right of grievance?

A: Indeed they have. This governing body has got itself into a fine procedural mess. The staffing committee should never operate without a clear knowledge of its budget. Normally, this is a committee with full delegated powers, whose decisions are simply reported to the full governing body. Thus, its decisions on pay awards are final and binding. Therefore, it can operate only within financial constraints set by the finance committee or the full governing body.

It is procedural nonsense for the staffing committee to find out what can be afforded after decisions have been made. The finance committee needs to inform the staffing committee of the total budget allocation for staffing for the year, so that the staffing committee, having allowed for incremental increases and possible pay awards, can know what flexibility it has to grant additional increases.

Assuming the staffing committee has full delegated powers, its decisions cannot be nullified either by the finance committee or by the full governing body. The affected staff are entitled to receive their increases.

Q: We have a pupil whose parents are Jehovah's Witnesses applying to go on a skiing trip. The parents are refusing to sign the customary medical consent form, without entering the special requirements of their faith. What is your advice?

A: You should not accept the application. The teachers leading this party are accepting full responsibility in loco parentis for all the pupils who go. They would be right to refuse to accept a pupil who could not be given conventional medical treatment. In a life or death situation, it might not be possible to contact the parents in time. Few teachers would be willing to accept responsibility for denying treatment.

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